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Full text of "Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret"

CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE 

WITH 

ECKEEMANN AND SOEET. 



TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN 

By JOHN OXENFORD. 



NEW EDITION 



LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, YORK STREET, 
COYENT GARDEN. 

1875. 



LONDON .* 

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, 

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 



TEANSLATOE'S PEEFACE. 



Any introduction referring to the subject of this book would 
be superfluous. It records the opinions, on the most varied 
topics, of one of the greatest literary geniuses of the present 
century, during the last ten years of a very long life. Goethe 
was born in August, 1749, and died in March, 1832, so that his 
age is seventy-three when the Conversations begin, and eighty- 
two when they terminate. 

However, the form in which this translation is presented to 
the English public requires a short explanation. 

In 1836, John Peter Eckermann, who gives a full account of 
himself in the "Introduction," published, in two volumes, his 
" Conversations with Goethe." In 1848, he published a third 
volume, containing additional Conversations, which he com- 
piled from his own notes, and from that of another friend of 
Goethe's, M. Soret, of whom there is a short account in the 
1 1 Preface to the Third or Supplemental Volume." Both these 
works are dedicated to Her Imperial Highness Maria Paulouna, 
Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach. 

Had I followed the order of German publication, I should 
have placed the whole of the Supplementary Volume after the 
contents of the first two ; however, as the Conversations in that 
volume are not of a later date than the others (which, indeed, 
terminate with the death of Goethe), but merely supply gaps, I 
deemed it more conducive to the reader's convenience to re- 
arrange in chronological order the whole of the Conversations, 
as if the Supplement had not been published separately. 

Still, to preserve a distinction between the Conversations of 
the First Book and those of the Supplement, I have marked the 
latter with the abbreviation " Sup.," adding an asterisk (thus, 
Sup.*) when a Conversation has been furnished, not by Ecker- 
mann, but by Soret. 

a 3 



vi 



TRANSLATOR S PREFACE. 



I feel bound to state that, while translating the First Book, 
I have had before me the translation by Mrs. Fuller, published 
in America. The great merit of this version I willingly ac- 
knowledge, though the frequent omissions render it almost an 
abridgement. The contents of the Supplementary Volume are 
now, I believe, published for the first time in the English 
language. 

J. 0. 

[1850.] 



AUTHOB'S PEEFACE 
TO THE FIEST TWO VOLUMES. 

This collection of Conversations with Goethe took its rise 
chiefly from an impulse, natural to my mind, to appropriate to 
myself by writing any part of my experience which strikes me 
as valuable or remarkable. 

Moreover, I felt constantly the need of instruction, not only 
when I first met with that extraordinary man, but also after I 
had lived with him for years ; and I loved to seize on the im- 
port of his words, and to note it down, that I might possess 
them for the rest of my life. 

When I think how rich and full were the communications by 
which he made me so happy for a period of nine years, and now 
observe how small a part I have retained in writing, I seem to 
myself like a child who, endeavouring to catch the refreshing 
spring shower with open hands, finds that the greater part of it 
runs through his fingers. 

But, as the saying is that books have their destiny, and as 
this applies no less to the origin of a book than to its subsequent 
appearance in the broad wide world, so we may use it with 
regard to the origin of this present book. Whole months often 
passed away, while the stars were unpropitious, and ill health, 
business, or various toils needful to daily existence, prevented 
me from writing a single line ; but then again kindly stars arose, 
and health, leisure, and the desire to write, combined to help 
me a good step forwards. And then, where persons are long 
domesticated together, where will there not be intervals of in- 



author's preface. vii 

difference ; and where is he who knows always how to prize the 
present at its due rate ? 

I mention these things to excuse the frequent and important 
gaps which the reader will find, if he is inclined to read the 
book in chronological order. To such gaps belong much thafc is 
good, but is now lost, especially many favourable words spoken 
by Goethe of his widely scattered friends, as well as of the 
works of various living German authors, while other remarks of 
a similar kind have been noted down. But, as I said before, 
books have their destinies even at the time of their origin. 

For the rest, I consider that which I have succeeded in making 
my own in these two volumes, and which I have some title to 
regard as the ornament of my own existence, with deep-felt 
gratitude as the gift of Providence, and I have a certain 
confidence that the world with which I share it will also feel 
gratitude towards me. 

I think that these conversations not only contain many 
valuable explanations and instructions on science, art, and prac- 
tical life, but that these sketches of Goethe, taken directly from 
life, will be especially serviceable in completing the portrait 
which each reader may have formed of Goethe from his manifold 
works. 

Still, I am far from imagining that the whole internal Goethe 
is here adequately portrayed. We may, with propriety, com- 
pare this extraordinary mind and man to a many-sided diamond, 
which in each direction shines with a different hue. And as, 
under different circumstances and with different persons, he 
became another being, so I, too, can only say, in a very modest 
sense, this is my Goethe. 

And this applies not merely to his manner of presenting him- 
self to me, but to my capacity for apprehending and re-producing 
him. In such cases a reflection * takes place, as in a mirror ; 
and it is very seldom that, in passing through another individu- 
ality, nothing of the original is lost, and nothing foreign is 
blended. The representations of the person of Goethe by 
Rauch, Dawe, Stieler, and David have all a high degree 
of truth, and yet each bears more or less the stamp of the 
individuality which produced it. If this can be said of 
bodily things, how much more does it apply to the fleeting, 
intangible objects of the mind ! However it may be in my 
case, I trust that all those who, from mental power or personal 
acquaintance with Goethe, are fitted to judge, will not misin- 
terpret my exertions to attain the greatest possible fidelity. 



* In the German " Spiegelung," but "refraction" furnishes a 
more adequate image. — Trans. 



viii 



author's preface. 



Having given these explanations as to the manner of appre- 
hending my subject, I have still something to add as to the 
import of the work. 

That which we call the True, even in relation to a single 
object, is by no means something small, narrow, limited ; 
rather is it, even if something simple, at the same time 
something comprehensive, -which like the various manifestations 
of a deep and widely reaching natural law, cannot easily be 
expressed. It cannot be disposed of by a sentence, or by 
sentence upon sentence, or by sentence opposed to sentence, but, 
through all these, one attains just an approximation, not the 
goal itself. So, to give a single instance, Goethe's detached 
remarks on poetry often have an appearance of one-sidedness, 
and indeed often of manifest contradiction. Sometimes he lays 
all the stress on the material which the world affords; sometimes 
upon the internal nature of the poet ; sometimes the only impor- 
tant point is the subject ; sometimes the mode of treating it ; 
sometimes all is made to depend on perfection of form ; some- 
times upon the spirit, with a neglect of all form. 

But all these contradictions are single sides of the True, and, 
taken together, denote the essence of truth itself, and lead to 
an approximation to it. I have, therefore, been careful, in 
these and similar cases, not to omit these seeming contra- 
dictions, as they were elicited by different occasions, in the 
course of dissimilar years and hours. I rely on the insight and 
comprehensive spirit of the cultivated reader, who will not be 
led astray by any isolated part, but will keep his eye on the 
whole, and properly arrange and combine each particular. 

Perhaps, too, the reader will find much here which at first 
sight seems unimportant. But if, on looking deeper, he perceive 
that such trifles often lead to something important, or serve as 
a foundation to something which comes afterwards, or con- 
tribute some slight touch to a delineation of character, these 
may be, if not sanctified, at least excused, as a sort of necessity. 

And now I bid a loving farewell to my so long cherished book 
on its entrance into the world, wishing it the fortune of being 
agreeable, and of exciting and propagating much that is good. 

Weimar, dlst October, 1835. 



PREFACE TO 
THIRD OR SUPPLEMENTAL VOLUME. 



Now, I at last see before me this long promised third part of 
my Conversations with Goethe : I enjoy the pleasant sensation 
of having overcome great obstacles. 

My case was very difficult ; it was like that of a mariner who 
cannot sail with the wind that blows to-day, but must often 
patiently wait whole weeks and months for a favourable gale, 
such as has blown years ago. When I was so happy as to write 
my first two parts, I could sail with a fair wind, because the 
freshly-spoken words were then still ringing in my ears, and 
the living intercourse with that wonderful man sustained me in 
an element of inspiration, through which I felt borne, as if on 
wings, to my goal. 

But now when that voice has been hushed for many years, 
and the happiness of those personal interviews lies so far 
behind me, I could attain the needful inspiration only in those 
hours in which it was granted me to enter into my own interior, 
and, in undisturbed reverie, to give a fresh colouring to the 
past, where it began to revive within me, and I saw great 
thoughts, and great characteristic traits before me, like moun- 
tains ; distant indeed, but nevertlieless plainly discernible, 
and illumined as by the sun of the actual day. 

Thus did my inspiration arise from my delight in that great 
man ; the details of thought and of oral expression were again 
fresh, as if I had experienced them yesterday. The living 
Goethe was again there : I again heard the peculiarly charming 
sound of his voice, to which no other can compare. I saw him 
again in the evening, with his black frock and star, jesting, 
laughing, and cheerfully conversing amid the social circle in his 
well-lighted room. Another day, when the weather was fine, 
he was with me in the carriage in his brown surtout, and blue 
cloth cap, with Ms light grey cloak laid over his knees ; there 
he was, with his countenance brown and healthy as the fresh 



X 



author's preface. 



air ; his words freely flowing forth, and sounding above the 
noise of the wheels. Or I saw myself in the evening by the 
quiet taper light again transported into his study, where he sat 
opposite to me at his table, in his white flannel dressing-gown, 
mild as the impression of a well spent day. We talked about 
things good and great : he set before me the noblest part of his 
own nature, and his mind kindled my own — the most perfect 
harmony existed between us. He extended his hand to me 
across the table, and I pressed it : I then took a full glass 
which stood by me, and which I drank to him without uttering 
a word, my glances being directed into his eyes across the wine. 

Thus was I again associated with him as in actual life, and 
his words again sounded to me as of old. 

But as it is generally the case in life, that, although we can 
think of a dear departed one, our thoughts for weeks and 
months can be but transient, on account of the claims of the 
actual day ; and that the quiet moments of such a reverie, in 
which we believe that we once more possess, in all its living 
freshness, a beloved object that we have lost, belong to a few 
happy hours — so was it with me with respect to Goethe. 

Months often passed when my soul, engrossed by the contact 
of ordinary life, was dead to Goethe, and he uttered not a word 
to my mind. And again came other weeks and months, during 
which I was in a barren mood, so that nothing would bud or 
blossom within me. I was forced, with great patience, to let 
these periods of inanity pass unemployed, for anything written 
under such circumstances would have been worthless. I was 
compelled to wait for my good fortune to bestow a return of 
those hours when the past would stand before me in all its 
liveliness, and my soul would be elevated to such a degree of 
mental strength and sensible ease, as to be a worthy receptacle 
for the thoughts and feelings of Goethe ; for I had to do with 
a hero whom I must not allow to sink. To be truly delineated 
he must appear in all the mildness of his disposition ; in the 
full clearness and power of his mind ; and in the accustomed 
dignity of his august personality — and tins was no trifling 
requisition. 

My relation to him was peculiar, and of a very intimate 
kind : it was that of the scholar to the master ; of the son to 
the father ; of the poor in culture to the rich in culture. He 
drew me into his own circle, and let me participate in the 
mental and bodily enjoyments of a higher state of existence. 
Sometimes I saw him but once a week, when I visited him in 
the evening ; sometimes every day, when I had the happiness 
to dine with him either alone or in company. His conversation 
was as varied as his works. He was always the same, and 



author's preface. 



xi 



always different. Now lie was occupied by some great idea, 
and his words flowed forth rich and inexhaustible ; they were 
often like a garden in spring where all is in blossom, and where 
one is so dazzled by the general brilliancy that one does not 
think of gathering a nosegay. At other times, on the contrary, 
he was taciturn and laconic, as if a cloud pressed upon his soul ; 
nay, there were days when it seemed as if he were filled with 
icy coldness, and a keen wind was sweeping over plains of frost 
and snow. When one saw him again he was again like a 
smiling summer's day, when all the warblers of the wood 
joyously greet us from hedges and bushes, when the cuckoo's 
voice resounds through the blue sky, and the brook ripples 
through flowery meadows. Then it was a pleasure to hear him ; 
his presence then had a beneficial influence, and the heart 
expanded at his words. 

Winter and summer, age and youth, seemed with him to be 
engaged in a perpetual strife and change ; nevertheless, it was 
admirable in him, when from seventy to eighty years old, that 
youth always recovered the ascendancy ; those autumnal and 
wintry days I have indicated were only rare exceptions. 

His self-control was great — nay, it formed a prominent 
peculiarity in his character. It was akin to that lofty delibera- 
tion (Besonnenheit) through which he always succeeded in 
mastering his material, and giving his single works that 
artistical finish which we admire in them. Through the same 
quality he was often concise and circumspect, not only in many 
of his writings, but also in his oral expressions. When, how- 
ever, in happy moments, a more powerful demon * was active 
within him, and that self-control abandoned him, his discourse 
rolled forth with youthful impetuosity, like a mountain cataract. 
In such moments he expressed what was best and greatest in 
his abundant nature, and such moments are to be understood 
when his earlier friends say of him, that his spoken words were 
better than those which he wrote and printed. Thus Marmontel 
said of Diderot, that whoever knew him from his writings 
only knew him but half ; 5 but that as soon as he became animated 
in actual conversation he was incomparable, and irresistibly 
carried his hearers along. 

If, on the one hand, I may now hope that I have succeeded 
in preserving in these conversations much that belonged to 
those happy moments, it is, perhaps, on the other hand, no less 
advantage to this book that it contains two reflections of 



* It is almost needless to observe that the word " demon " is here 
used in reference to its Greek origin, and implies nothing evil. — 
Trans. 



xii author's preface. 

Goethe's personality, one towards myself, the other towards a 
young friend. 

M. Soret, of Geneva, a liberal republican, called to Weimar 
in the year 1822, to superintend the education of the hereditary 
Grand Duke, remained, from that year to Goethe's death, in very 
close connection with him. He was a constant guest at Goethe's 
table, and a frequent and welcome visitor at the evening parties ; 
moreover, his attainments in natural science offered many 
points of contact on which to base a lasting intercourse. As 
a profound mineralogist he arranged Goethe's crystals, while 
his knowledge of botany enabled him to translate Goethe's 
" Metamorphosis of the Plants " into French, and thus to give 
a wider circulation to that important work. His position at 
court likewise brought him frequently into Goethe's presence, 
as he sometimes accompanied the prince to Goethe's house, 
while sometimes commissions to Goethe, from His Royal High- 
ness the Archduke, and Her Imperial Highness the Archduchess, 
gave him occasion for visits. 

These personal interviews were often recorded by M. Soret 
in his journals ; and some years ago he was kind enough to 
give me a small manuscript compiled from this source, in 
order that I might, if I pleased, take what was best and most 
interesting, and introduce it into my third volume in chrono- 
logical order. 

These notes, which were written in French, were sometimes 
complete, but sometimes cursory and defective, accordingly as 
the author found time to make them in his hurried and often 
greatly occupied days. Since, however, no subject appears in 
his manuscript which was not repeatedly and thoroughly dis- 
cussed by Goethe and myself, my own journals were perfectly 
adapted to complete the notes of Soret, to supply his deficiencies, 
and to develop sufficiently what he often had only indicated. 
All the conversations which are based on Soret's manuscript, or 
for which that manuscript has been much used, as is particu- 
larly the case in the first two years, are marked with an 
asterisk (*) placed against the date, to distinguish them from 
those which are by me alone, and which, with a few exceptions, 
make up the years from 1824 to 1829 (inclusive), and a great 
part of 1830, 1831, and 1832. 

I have now nothing further to add, but the wish that this 
third volume, which I have so long and so fondly kept by me, 
will meet with that kind reception which was so abundantly 
accorded to the first two. 

Weimar, 21st December, 1847, 



INTRODUCTION. 



The Author gives an account of Himself and his Parents, 
and of the origin of his connection with goethe. 

At Winsen on the Luhe, a little town between Liineburg and 
Hamburg, on the border of the marsh and heathlands, I was 
born, at the beginning of the nineties, in nothing better than a 
hut, as we may well call a small house which had only one room 
capable of being heated, and no stairs, and in which they 
mounted at once to the hayloft by a ladder, which reached to 
the house-door. 

As the youngest born of a second marriage, I, properly speak- 
ing, did not know my parents till they had reached an advanced 
, age ; and, to a certain extent, I grew up with them alone. Two 
" sons of my father's first marriage were still alive. One of them, 
after several voyages as a sailor, had been taken prisoner in 
foreign parts, and had not since been heard of ; while the other, 
after being several times engaged in the whale and seal fisheries 
in Greenland, had returned to Hamburg, and there lived in 
moderate circumstances. Two sisters of my father's second 
marriage had grown up before me. When I had attained my 
twelfth year they had already left the parental hut, and were 
in service in our town and in Hamburg. 

The principal means of supporting our little family was a cow, 
which not only supplied us with milk for our daily wants, but 
gave us every year a calf for fattening, and sometimes milk 
enough to sell for a few groschen, We had besides a piece of 
land, which supplied us with vegetables for the wants of the 
year. Corn for bread, and flour for the kitchen, we were, how- 
ever, obliged to buy. 

My mother was particularly expert at spinning wool ; she also 
gave much satisfaction by the caps she made for the women of 
the village, and in both ways earned some money. 

My father's business consisted of a small traffic, which varied 
according to the seasons, and obliged him to be often absent from 
home, and to travel on foot about the countrv. In summer 

b 



xiv 



INTRODUCTION. 



he was seen with a light wooden box on his back, going in the 
heath-country from village to village, hawking ribbons, thread, 
and silk. At the same^time he purchased here woollen stockings 
and Beyderwand* (a cloth woven out of the wool of the sheep 
on the heaths, and linen yarn), which he again disposed of in 
the Vierlande on the other side the Elbe, where he likewise went 
hawking. In the winter he carried on a trade in rough quills 
and unbleached linen, which he bought up in the villages of 
the hut and marsh country, and took to Hamburg when a ship 
offered. But in all cases his gains must have been very small, 
as we always lived in some degree of poverty. 

If now I am to speak of my employments in childhood, these 
varied according to the season. When spring commenced, and 
the waters of the Elbe had receded after their customary over- 
flow, I went daily to collect the sedges which had been thrown 
upon the dykes and other places, and to heap them up as litter 
for our cow. But when the first green was springing over the 
broad meadows, I, with other boys, passed long days in watch- 
ing the cows. In summer I was actively employed on our field, 
and brought dry wood from the thickets scarce a mile (German) 
off, to serve for firing throughout the year. In harvest time 
I passed weeks in the field as a gleaner, and when the autumn 
winds shook the trees I gathered acorns, which I sold by the 
peck to persons of opulence, to feed their geese. When I was 
old enough, I went with my father on his travels from hamlet 
to hamlet, and helped to carry his bundle. This time affords 
some of the fairest remembrances of my youth. 

Under such influences, and busied in such employments, 
during which, at certain periods, I attended a school, and barely 
learned to read and write, I reached my fourteenth year ; and 
every one will confess, that from this situation to an intimate 
connection with Goethe there was a great step, and one that 
seemed scarcely probable. I knew not that there were in the 
world such things as Poetry or the Fine Arts ; and, fortunately, 
there was not within me even so much as a blind longing and 
striving after them. 

It has been said that animals are instructed by their very 
organization ; and so may it be said of man, that, by something 
which he does quite accidentally, he is often taught the higher 
powers which slumber within him. Something of the sort hap- 
pened to me, which, though insignificant in itself, gave a new 
turn to my life, and is therefore stamped indelibly on my 
memory. 



* Anglice, Linsey-woolsey. — Trans. 



INTRODUCTION. 



XV 



I sStt one evening with both my parents at table by the light 
of a lamp. My father had just returned from Hamburg, and 
was talking about his business there. As he loved smoking, he 
had brought back with him a packet of tobacco, which lay 
before him on the table, and had for the crest a horse. This 
horse seemed to me a very good picture, and, as I had by me 
pen, ink, and a piece of paper, I was seized with an irresistible 
inclination to copy it. My father continued talking about 
Hamburg, and I, being quite unobserved, became wholly 
engaged in drawing the horse. When finished, it seemed to me 
a perfect likeness of the original, and I experienced a delight 
before unknown. I showed my parents what I had done, and 
they could not avoid praising me and expressing admiration. I 
passed the night in happy excitement, and almost sleepless ; I 
thought constantly of the horse I had drawn, and longed im- 
patiently for morning, that I might have it again before my 
eyes, and delight myself with beholding it. 

From this time the once-excited propensity for visible imita- 
tion was never forgotten. And as I found no other help of any 
sort in our place, I deemed myself most happy when our neigh- 
bour, who was a potter, lent me some outlines, which served him 
as models for painting his plates and dishes. 

These outlines I copied very carefully with pen and ink, and 
thus arose two books of drawings, which soon passed from hand 
to hand, and at last came under the eye of the upper Bailiff 
(Oberamtmann), Meyer, the first man of the place. He sent 
for me, made me a present, and praised me in the kindest 
manner. He asked me if I should like to become a painter, for 
if so, he would, when I was confirmed, send me to a proper 
master at Hamburg. I said that I should like it very much, 
and would talk 'of it with my parents. They, however, who be- 
longed to the peasant class, and lived in a place where scarce any 
occupations were followed except tilling and grazing, thought of a 
painter only as one who paints doors and houses. They, there- 
fore, advised me earnestly against it, saying it was not only a 
very dirty, but a very dangerous trade, at which one might break 
one's legs or neck, as was indeed often the case, especially in 
Hamburg, where the houses are seven stories high. As my own 
ideas of a painter were not more elevated, I abandoned my fancy 
for this trade, and put quite out of my head the offer of the 
good Bailiff. 

However, the attention of higher persons having been once 
bestowed on me, I was kept in sight, and efforts were made to aid 
me in various ways. I was permitted to take private lessons with 
the few children of that rank ; I learned French, and a little Latin 
and music : I was also provided with better clothing, and the 

I 2 



xvi 



INTRODUCTION. 



worthy superintendent, Parisius, did not disdain to give me a 
seat at his own table. 

Henceforth, I loved school very much. I sought to make this 
pleasant state of things last as long as possible, and my parents 
readily consented that I should not be confirmed before my 
sixteenth year. 

But now arose the question, what was to be done with me ? 
Could I have followed my wishes, I should have been sent to 
pursue learned studies at a gymnasium ; but this was out of the 
question, as I was not only destitute of means, but felt myself 
imperiously called upon by my circumstances to get into some 
situation as soon as possible, where I could not only take care 
of myself, but in some measure help my poor old parents. 

Such a situation presented itself immediately after my con- 
firmation, for a judicial functionary (Justizbeamter) of the place 
offered to take me to do copying and other little services for 
him, and I joyfully consented. I had, during the last year and 
a half of my schooling, acquired not only a good hand, but 
practised a 'great deal in composition, so that I might consider 
myself very well qualified for such a post. I also carried on 
some of the minor parts of an advocate's business, frequently 
drawing up both judgment and petition, according to prescribed 
forms : this lasted two years, viz. till 1810, when the Hanoverian 
office, at Winsen on the Luhe, was broken up, and the place 
being taken into the department of Lower Elbe, was incorpo- 
rated with the French empire. 

I then received an appointment in the office of direct taxes at 
Luneburg, and when this was also broken up in the following 
year, I entered the office of the under prefect in Uelzen . Here 
I worked till near the end of the year 1812, when the prefect. 
Herr von During, patronized me, and made me secretary of the 
mayoralty at Bevensen. This post I held till the spring of 
1813, when the approach of the Cossacks gave us hopes of being 
freed from the French yoke. 

I now took my leave and returned home, with no other inten- 
tion than that of joining the ranks of those patriotic warriors 
who began secretly to form themselves in various places. 

This plan I carried out. Towards the end of the summer I 
joined as a volunteer, with rifle and holster, the Kielmannsegge 
Jager corps, and in Captain Knop's company made the campaign 
of the winter of 1813-14, through Mecklenburg, Holstein, and 
before Hamburg, against Marshal Davoust. Afterwards we 
crossed the Rhine against General Maison, and in the summer 
marched about a great deal in the fertile provinces of Flanders 
and Brabant. 

Here, at the sight of the great pictures of the Netherlands, a 



INTRODUCTION. 



xvii 



new world opened to me ; I passed whole days in churches and 
museums. These were, in fact, the first pictures I ever saw in 
my life. I understood now what was meant by being a painter. 
I saw the honoured happy progress of the scholars, and I could 
have wept that I was not permitted to pursue a similar path. 
However, I took my resolution at once. I made the acquaint- 
ance of a young artist at Tournay; I obtained black crayons and 
a sheet of drawing-paper of the largest size, and sat down at 
once before a picture to copy it. My enthusiasm somewhat 
supplied my deficiencies in practice and instruction, and thus I 
succeeded in the outlines of the figures. I had also begun to 
shade the whole from the left side, when marching orders broke 
up my happy employment. I hastened to indicate the grada- 
tions of light and shade in the still unfinished parts with single 
letters, hoping that thus I might yet complete my work in some 
tranquil hour. I then rolled up my picture, and put it in a 
case, which I carried at my back with my gun, all the long 
march from Tournay to Hameln. 

Here, in the autumn of 1814, the Jager corps was disbanded. 
I went home ; my father was dead ; my mother was still alive, 
and resided with my elder sister, who had married, and had 
taken possession of the paternal house. I began now to con- 
tinue my drawing. I completed first the picture I had brought 
from Brabant ; and then, as I had no proper models, I stuck to 
some little engravings of Bamberg's, of which I made enlarged 
copies in black chalk. But here I felt the want of proper 
knowledge and preparation. I had no idea of the anatomy 
either of men or animals ; I knew as little how to treat properly 
the various kinds of trees and grounds ; and it cost me unspeak- 
able toil to make anything look decently well by my own mode 
of proceeding. 

Thus I soon saw that, if I wished to become an artist, I must 
set to work in a way somewhat different, and that more of this 
groping about in my own way would only be lost labour. Now 
my plan was to find a suitable master, and begin from the very 
beginning. 

The master whom I had in my eye was no other than Ram- 
berg, of Hanover, and it seemed to me the more possible to stop 
in that city, as a beloved friend of my earlier days lived there in 
easy circumstances. On his friendship I could rely for my sup- 
port, and he was constantly inviting me. 

Without further delay, therefore, I tied up my bundle, and 
took, in the midst of the winter of 1815, a walk of almost forty 
leagues, quite alone, over the heath and through the deep snow. 
I arrived at Hanover in a few days, without accident. 

I went immediately to Bamberg, and told him my wishes. 



xvm 



INTRODUCTION. 



After looldng at what I laid before him, he seemed not to doubt 
my talent, yet he remarked that I must have bread first ; that 
the mastery of the technical part of art demanded much time, 
and that the prospect of earning a subsistence by art lay at a 
great distance. Meanwhile, he showed himself willing to help 
me as much as he could ; he looked up immediately, from the 
mass of his drawings, some suitable sheets with parts of the 
human body, and gave them to me to copy. 

So I lived with my friend, and drew after Ramberg. I made 
good progress, for the drawings which he gave me were more and 
more advanced. I drew the whole anatomy of the human 
frame, and was never weary of repeating difficult hands and 
feet. So passed some happy months. "When we came to May, 
however, my health began to give way ; and on the approach of 
June my hands trembled so much that I could no longer hold a 
pencil. 

We consulted a skilful physician, and he found my situation 
dangerous. He said that in consequence of the campaign, per- 
spiration was checked, that my internals were attacked by a 
consuming heat, and that, if I continued a fortnight in this 
condition, I should inevitably be a corpse. He prescribed 
warm baths, and similar remedies to restore the action of the 
skin ; cheering signs of improvement very soon appeared, but 
the continuation of my artistic studies was not to be thought of. 

My friend had hitherto paid me the kindest care and atten- 
tion ; there was not the least thought or hint that I was, or 
could afterwards become, a burden to him. I, however, thought 
of it, and as the uneasiness which I had long harboured on this 
head had probably hastened the breaking out of my dormant 
illness, so did it now come forward in all its force, as I sav,- 
heavy expenses before me on account of my recovery. 

At such a time of external and internal embarrassment, the 
prospect opened to me of an appointment, with a commission, 
which had for its object the clothing of the Hanoverian army, 
and hence it was not surprising that, renouncing the artistical 
path, I yielded to the pressure of circumstances, solicited the 
appointment, and was delighted to obtain it. 

My recovery was soon complete, and a state of health and 
cheerfulness returned which I had not enjoyed for a long time. 
I found myself able, in some measure, to requite the kindness 
my friend had generously shown me. The novelty of the ser- 
vices into which I was now to be initiated gave occupation to my 
mind. My superiors seemed to me men of the noblest views, 
and with my colleagues, some of whom had made the campaign 
in the same corps with me, I was soon on a footing of cordial 
intimacy. 



INTRODUCTION. 



Being now fairly settled, I began with some freedom to look 
about the city, which contained much that was worth observa- 
tion, and, in leisure hours, I was never weary of rambling, over 
and over again, about its beautiful environs. With a pupil of 
Bamberg's, a promising young artist, I formed a close intimacy, 
and he was my constant companion in my rambles. And since 
I was forced to give up the practice of Art on account of my 
health and other circumstances, it was a great solace that I 
could, at least, daily converse about it with him. I took in- 
terest in his compositions, which he showed me in sketches, and 
about which we conversed. He introduced me to many instruc- 
tive works ; I read Winckelmann and Mengs ; but, never having 
had before me the objects which they discuss, I could only 
imbibe generalities from their works, and received, indeed, but 
little benefit. 

My friend, who had been born and brought up in the city, 
was in advance of me in every kind of mental culture, and had, 
what I entirely wanted, considerable acquaintance with the 
belles lettres. At that time Theodore Korner was the venerated 
hero of the day. My friend brought me the " Lyre and Sword," 
which did not fail to make a deep impression on me, as well as 
others, and to excite my admiration. 

Much has been said of the artistical effect of poems, and many 
have ranked it very high ; but it seems to me that the subject- 
matter is, after all, the chief point. Unconsciously, I made this 
experience in reading the " Lyre and Sword." For that I, like 
Korner, had fostered in my bosom an abhorrence of those who 
had been our oppressors for so many years ; that I, like him, 
had fought for our freedom, and, like him, had been familiar 
with all those circumstances of tedious marches, nightly 
bivouacs, outpost service, and skirmishes, and amid them all 
had been filled with thoughts and feelings similar to his : this it 
was which gave to these poems so deep and powerful an echo in 
my heart. 

Since nothing of import could have an effect upon me without 
moving me deeply and rendering me productive, so it was with 
these poems of Theodore Korner. I bethought me that I too 
had, in childhood and the years immediately following, written 
little poems from time to time, without caring any more about 
them, because at the time I attached no great value to things so 
easily produced, and -because a certain mental ripeness is re- 
quired for appreciation of poetical talent. This talent now in 
Korner appeared to me as something enviable and noble, and I 
felt a great desire to try if I could succeed, by following him 
in some degree. 

The return of our patriotic warriors from France afforded me 



INTRODUCTION. 



a good opportunity, and, as I had fresh in my memory all t!iG 
unspeakable hardships which the soldier must undergo in the 
field, while often no inconvenience is endured by the citizen in 
his comfortable home, I thought it would be good to set forth 
this contrast in a poem, and, by working on the feelings, to pre- 
pare for the returning troops a more cordial reception. 

I had several hundred copies of this poem printed at my own 
expense, and distributed through the town. The effect pro- 
duced was favourable beyond my expectations. It procured me 
a throng of very pleasant acquaintances ; people sympathized 
with the views and feelings I had uttered, encouraged me to 
make similar attempts, and were generally of opinion that I had 
given proof of a talent which deserved further cultivation. The 
poem was copied into periodicals, printed, and sold separately 
in various places ; I even had the pleasure of seeing it set to 
music by a very favourite composer, though, in fact, it was ill 
adapted for singing, on account of its length and rhetorical style. 

Not a week passed now in which I was not happy enough to 
produce some new poem. I was now in my four-and-twentieth 
year : within me, a Avorld of feelings, impulses, and good-will, 
was in full action ; but I was entirely deficient in information 
and mental culture. The study of our great poets was recom- 
mended to me, especially of Schiller and Klopstock. I pro- 
cured their works — I read, I admired them, without receiving 
much assistance from them ; the path of these geniuses, though 
T was not aware of it at the time, being too far from the natural 
tendency of my own mind. 

At this time, I first heard the name of Goethe, and obtained 
a volume of his poems. I read his songs again and again, ami 
enjoyed a happiness which no words can express. I seemed as 
if I had not till now begun to wake, and attain real conscious- 
ness ; it appeared to me that my own inmost soul, till then un- 
known even to myself, was reflected in these songs. Nowhere 
did I meet any learned or foreign matter beyond the reach of 
my own uncultivated thoughts and feelings ; nowhere any 
names of outlandish and obsolete divinities, which to me said 
nothing ; but, on the contrary, I found the human heart, with 
its desires, joys, and sorrows — I found a German nature, clear 
as the bright actual day — pure reality in the light of a mild 
glorification. 

I lived whole weeks and months absorbed in these songs. 
Then I succeeded in obtaining "Wilhelm Meister," then 
"Goethe's Life," then his dramas. "Faust," from whose 
abysses of human nature and perdition I at first, shuddering, 
drew back, but whose profound enigmatical character ever at- 
tracted me again, I read always in holidays. 3Iy admiration 



INTRODUCTION. 



XXI 



and love increased daily ; for a long time I completely lived in 
these works, and thought and talked of nothing but Goethe. 

The advantage which we derive from studying the works of a 
great author may be of different kinds ; but the chief benefit 
probably consists in this, that we become more clearly conscious, 
not only of our own internal nature, but also of the varied 
world without us. Such an effect was produced on me by the 
works of Goethe. I was also impelled by them to a better 
observation and apprehension of sensible objects and characters ; 
I came gradually to understand the unity or internal harmony 
of an individual with itself, and thus the enigma of the great 
variety in phenomena, both of nature and art, was solved to me 
more and more. 

After I had in some measure grounded myself in Goethe's 
writings, and had also made many practical attempts in poetry, 
I turned to some of the best writers of other countries and 
earlier times, and read in the best translations, not only the 
principal pieces of Shakspeare, but also Sophocles and Homer. 

Here, however, I soon perceived that in these sublime works 
I could only appreciate the generally Human (das Allgemein- 
menschliche), and that the understanding of the details, both 
of language and history, presupposed an amount of knowledge 
and an education that is commonly acquired only in schools and 
universities. 

Moreover, it was shown to me, from many sides, that I was 
toiling in vain by thus following my own way, and that, without 
what is called a classical education, a poet can never succeed 
either in writing his own language with elegance and expression, 
or, indeed, performing anything excellent even as to its import. 
When, too, I read many biographies of distinguished men to see 
what educational path they had adopted to attain to anything 
good, and perceived how they all went through the routine of 
schools and colleges, I resolved, in spite of my advanced age and 
the many obstacles which surrounded me, to do the same. 

I forthwith applied to an eminent philologian, who had been 
appointed teacher in the gymnasium at Hanover, and took 
private instruction, not only in Latin, but also in Greek, on which 
studies I spent all the time which the hours (at least six a day) 
claimed from me by my office would afford me. 

Thus I passed a year. I made good progress, but with my 
excessive ardour it seemed to me that I went on too slowly, and 
must devise some other plan. I thought that if I could pass 
four or five hours daily in the gymnasium, and thus live 
altogether in a learned atmosphere, I should progress in quite 
another fashion, and attain my end infinitely sooner. 

In this opinion I was confirmed by the advice of competent 



xxii 



INTRODUCTION. 



persons ; I therefore resolved to carry out my scheme, and 
easily obtained the consent of my superiors ; for the hours of 
the gymnasium chiefly fell in a part of the day when I was dis- 
engaged. 

I therefore applied for admission ; and, accompanied by my 
teacher, went on a Sunday forenoon to the worthy director to go 
through the requisite probation. He examined me with all 
possible kindness ; but as I was not prepared for the traditional 
school questions, and with all my industry lacked the proper 
routine, I did not stand so well as I really ought to have done. 
However, on the assurance of my teacher that I knew more than 
appeared from my examination, and, in consideration of my 
uncommon ardour, the director placed me in the second class. 

I need hardly say that a man of nearly twenty-five, and one 
already employed in the king's service, made but an odd figure 
among scholars who were, for the most part, mere boys, and 
that my situation was at first rather strange and unpleasant ; 
but my great thirst for knowledge enabled me to overlook and 
endure everything. And, on the whole, I had no cause for 
complaint. The tutors esteemed me ; the elder and better 
scholars of the class treated me in the most friendly manner, 
and even the most mischievous had forbearance enough not to 
play their tricks on me. 

I was thus, on the whole, very happy in the attainment of my 
object, and proceeded with great zeal in this new path. I woke 
at five in the morning, and soon set about preparing my lessons. 
About eight I went to the school, and stayed till ten. Thence I 
hastened to my office, where my attendance was required till 
one. I then flew home, swallowed a little dinner, and 
was again at school soon after one. The hours then lasted till 
four, after which I was occupied in my office till seven, and de- 
voted the remainder of the evening to preparation and private 
instruction. 

Thus I lived some months ; but my strength was unequal to 
such exertion, and the ancient saying, " No man can serve two 
masters," was confirmed. Want of free air and exercise, and 
of time and quiet for eating, drinking, and sleep, gradually 
reduced me to an unhealthy state ; I found myself paralyzed 
both in body and mind, and saw that I must, as a matter of 
necessity, give up either the school or my office. As my sub- 
sistence depended on the latter, I had only the former alterna- 
tive, and again left the school in the beginning of the spring 
of 1817. As I saw it was my destiny to make many trials, I did 
not repent that I had also made trial of a learned school. 

Indeed, I had advanced a good step ; and as I still had the 
University in view, there was no course left me but to go on 



INTRODUCTION. 



xxiii 



with my private instruction, which I did with the greatest 
ardour. 

After getting rid of the burden of the winter, I the more 
cheerfully enjoyed the spring and summer. I was much in the 
open country, which this year spoke with peculiar sympathy to 
my heart, and many poems were produced ; Goethe's juvenile 
songs were floating as a high example before my eyes. 

On the commencement of winter, I began seriously to think 
how it would be possible to enter the University, at least within 
a year. I was so far advanced in Latin as to write metrical 
translations of such parts as especially struck me in Horace's 
Odes, Virgil's Eclogues, and Ovid's Metamorphoses, and could 
read with some facility Cicero's Orations and Cassar's Commen- 
taries. With this I could by no means look upon myself as 
suitably prepared for academical studies, but I thought that I 
might advance considerably within a year, and then make good 
all deficiencies in the University myself. 

Among the higher persons in the city, I had gained many 
patrons ; they promised me their aid, on condition, however, I 
would choose what is called a Bread study.* But as this did 
not belong to the tendency of my nature, and as I lived in the 
firm conviction that man must only cultivate that to which he is 
directed by a constant internal impulse, I adhered to my own 
plans, and my friends refused their assistance, granting nothing 
beyond a free board. 

I had now only to carry out my scheme with my own re- 
sources, and to set about a literary production of some 
importance. 

Milliner's " Schuld " (Crime) and Grillparzer's ■ • Ahnfrau 
(the Ancestress) t were then the order of the day, and attracted 
much attention. To my natural feeling these artificial works 
were repugnant, and still less could I reconcile myself to the 
ideas of destiny which they contained, and which I thought 
would have a demoralizing effect on the public ; I therefore re- 
solved to appear against them, and to show that destiny de- 
pends on character. However, I intended to fight not by words, 
but in act. A piece was to be produced which should utter the 
truth, that man in the present sows seeds for the future, which 
bring forth good or evil fruit according to his sowing. Being 
unacquainted with the history of the world, I had to invent the 
character and the course of the action. I carried it in my head 



* That is a course of study for the express purpose of gaining a 
subsistence, as distinguished from that study which seeks learning, 
for its own sake. — Trans. 

f Two plays. — Trans. 



INTRODUCTION. 



for a full year, and imagined the single scenes and acts down to 
the minutest details, till at last I wrote it, in the winter of 1820, 
in the morning hours of a few weeks. I was supremely happy 
in doing this, for the whole flowed forth easily and naturally. 
But, in opposition to the above-named poets, I had my eye too 
steadily fixed on real life, and never thought of the theatre. 
Thus it was more a quiet delineation of situations than a 
rapidly progressive action, and only poetical and rythmical 
where characters and situations required it. Subordinate 
persons had too much room, and the whole piece too much 
breadth. 

I showed it to my most intimate friends and acquaintance, 
but it was not received as I wished : they objected that some 
scenes belonged to comedy, and, further, that I had read too 
little. As I had expected a better reception, I was at first 
quietly offended, but I gradually came to the conviction that my 
friends were not so very wrong, and that my piece, even if the 
characters were correctly drawn, and the whole was well 
designed, and produced with some degree of care and facility, 
was of far too small merit to be fit for public representation, 
with respect to the views of life which it developed. 

When I consider my origin, and the little I had studied, this 
was not to be wondered at. I determined to remodel the piece, 
and arrange it for the theatre ; but first to progress in my 
studies, that I might be capable to give everything a higher 
character. My anxiety to go to the University, where I hoped 
to attain all I wanted, and through which I expected to improve 
my position in life, became a positive passion. I resolved to 
publish my poems, as a chance of obtaining my wishes. As I 
had not that established reputation which would lead me to 
expect a handsome sum from a publisher, I chose the way of 
subscription as more suitable to my position. 

This was conducted by my friends, and had the happiest 
result. I again went before my superiors with my views as to 
Gottingen, and asked for my dismissal. As they were convinced 
that I was really in earnest, and would not give way, they 
favoured my designs. On the representation of my chief, 
Colonel von Berger, the war-office (Kriegs-Canzlei) granted 
me my dismissal, and also a hundred and fifty dollars yearly 
for two years, to aid me in the prosecution of my studies. 

I was now happy in the realization of the schemes I had 
cherished for years. I had the poems printed and sent off 
as quickly as possible, and derived from them, after deducting 
all expenses, a clear profit of one hundred and fifty dollars. 

In May, 1821, 1 went to Gottingen, leaving one behind me I 
dearly loved. 



INTRODUCTION. 



XXV 



My first attempt to reach the University had failed, because I 
obstinately refused any " Bread study/' as it is called. Now, 
however, grown wiser by experience, and only too well aware of 
the unspeakable struggles which then awaited me, both on the 
side of my nearest acquaintance and on that of higher persons 
of influence, I was prudent enough to submit to the views of a 
too-potent world, and to declare that I would choose a " Bread 
study," and devote myself to jurisprudence. 

My powerful patrons, and all who set their heart on my 
worldly advancement, while they had no notion of the urgency 
of my wants, found my plan very rational. All opposition was 
now at an end. I found everywhere kind advances, and a 
ready furtherance of my views. To confirm me in such good 
intentions, they did not fail to allege that the juridical studies 
were by no means of such a kind as to preclude higher mental 
advantages. They said that I should thus gain an insight into 
civil and social relations, such as I could attain in no other way ; 
that this study was by no means so extensive as to hinder my 
pursuing many so-called higher studies ; and they told me of 
various celebrated persons, who had studied all the departments 
of law, and also attained the highest proficiency in other ways. 

However, both my friends and myself overlooked the fact 
that such men not only came to the University well stored with 
school-learning, but had, besides, a much longer time to expend 
on their studies than the imperious necessity of my circum- 
stances would permit to me. 

Suffice it to say, that, as I deceived others, i gradually 
deceived myself also, and really fancied that I might seriously 
study law, and, at the same time, attain my own peculiar ends. 

Under this delusion, of seeking that which I had no wish to 
possess and apply, I began with jurisprudence as soon as I 
reached the University. I found the science by no means of a 
repulsive kind, but rather such that, if my head had not been 
already too full of other plans and wishes, I could willingly 
have given myself up to it. But I was like a maiden, who finds 
abundant reasons for objecting to a proposed marriage, merely 
because she unfortunately has a secret love in her heart. 

At the lectures on the Institutes and Pandects, I was often 
absorbed in inventing dramatic scenes and acts. I zealously 
tried to fix my mind on the matter delivered by the lecturer, 
but it always wandered. I really thought of nothing but poetry 
and heart, and the higher human culture to attain which I had 
for years passionately endeavoured to reach the University. 

Heeren was the person who most assisted me in my im- 
mediate objects during this first year at the University. His 
ethnography and history laid the best foundation for further 



INTRODUCTION. 



studies of the same kind, while the clearness and closeness of 
his style was of important advantage to me in other respects. 
I attended every lecture with delight, and never left one without 
being penetrated with the highest veneration and affection for 
that eminent man. 

I judiciously began my second academic year by setting aside 
entirely the study of jurisprudence, which was, indeed, much 
too important to be made subordinate to others, and which was 
too great a hindrance with regard to my principal object. I 
devoted myself to philology, and was now as much indebted to 
Dissen as I had been the n?st year to Heeren. For not only 
because his lectures gave my studies the food most needed and 
desired, did I find myself daily enlightened and advanced, 
and receive safe directions for my future works, but I had also 
the happiness of becoming personally acquainted with this ex- 
cellent man, and of receiving from him guidance and encourage- 
ment in my studies. 

My daily intercourse with the best minds among the students, 
and the conversations on the noblest subjects during our walks 
and often till late at night, were to me invaluable, and exercised 
a most favourable influence on the development of my 
faculties. 

In the mean while, the end of my pecuniary means drew 
near. On the other hand, during the past year and a half, I 
had accumulated daily new treasures of knowledge ; and to 
heap more together, without any practical application, would 
not have suited my natural disposition and my course of life. 
Hence, my passionate desire now was, by some literary under- 
taking, to make myself once more free, and sharpen my appetite 
for further study. 

I intended to complete my dramatic work, which still inte- 
rested me, as far as the subject was concerned, but which was to 
be elevated both in form and import, and also to bring forward 
some ideas relating to the principles of poetry, which had de- 
veloped themselves in opposition to the views then prevalent. 
These two labours were to be undertaken in succession. 

I, therefore, left the University in the autumn of 1822, and 
took lodgings in the country near Hanover. I first wrote my 
theoretical essays, which I hoped might aid youthful talents, 
not only in production, but in criticising poetical works, and 
gave them the title of " Beytrage zur Poesie." * 

In May, 1823, I had completed this work. As I needed not 
only a good publisher, but also a handsome remuneration, I 
took the resolution at once to send my work to Goethe, and 

* Contributions to Poetry. 



INTEODUCTION. 



xxvii 



ask him to say some words of recommendation to Herr von 
Cotta. 

Goethe was still, as formerly, the poet to whom I daily 
looked up to as my infallible polar star ; whose utterance har- 
monized with my thought, and led me constantly to a higher 
and higher point of view ; whose high art in treating the most 
varied subjects I was ever striving to fathom and imitate ; and 
towards whom my love and veneration had almost the nature 
of a passion. 

Soon after my arrival in Gottingen, I had sent him a copy of 
my poems, accompanied by a light sketch of the progress of my 
life and culture, and had the great joy, not only to receive some 
lines written by his own hand, but to hear from travellers that 
he had a good opinion of me, and proposed to make mention of 
me in the numbers of " Kunst und Alterthum." * 

In my situation, at that time, the knowledge of this fact was 
of great importance, and gave me courage to show him the 
manuscript I had just completed. 

I had no other desire at present than to see him personally 
for some moments, to attain which object I set off, about the 
end of May, and went on foot over Gottingen and the Werrathal, 
to Weimar. 

During this journey, which the heat of the weather often made 
fatiguing, I frequently felt within me the consolatory belief that 
I was under the especial guidance of kindly powers, and that 
this journey would be of great importance to my success in life. 



* Art and Antiquity. 



CONVERSATIONS OE GOETHE. 



1822. 

(Sup.*) Sat., Sept. 21. — This evening at Goethe's, with 
Counsellor (Ho/rath) Meyer. The conversation turned 
principally upon mineralogy, chemistry, and natural 
science (pliysik). The phenomena of the polarization 
of light appeared to interest him particularly. He showed 
me various preparations, chiefly after his own designs, 
and expressed a wish to make some experiments with me. 

In the course of our conversation, Goethe became more 
and more free and communicative. I remained more than 
an hour, and at my departure he said many kind things to 
me. 

His figure is still to he called handsome ; his forehead 
and eyes are extremely majestic. He is tall and well built, 
and so vigorous in appearance that one can scarcely com- 
prehend how he has been able for some years to declare 
himself too old to enter into society, and to go to court. 

(Sup.*) Tues., Sept 24. — The evening spent at Goethe's, 
with Meyer, Goethe's son, Frau von Goethe, and his 
physician, Counsellor (Hofrath) Rehbein. To-day, Goethe 
was particularly lively. He showed me some splendid 
lithographs from Stuttgard, the most perfect things of 
the kind I had ever seen. After that we conversed on 
scientific subjects, especially on the advancement of 
chemistry. Iodine and chlorine occupied him particu- 
larly ; he spoke about these substances as if the new dis- 
coveries in chemistry had quite taken him by surprise. He 
had some iodine brought in, and volatilized it, before our 

B 



2 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[l822. 



eyes, in the flame of a taper ; by which means he did not 
fail to make us admire the violet-vapour as a pleasing con- 
firmation of a law in his theory of colours. 

(Sup.*) Thurs., Oct. 1. — To an evening party at Goethe's. 
I found amongst the assembled guests, Chancellor von 
Miiller, President Peucer, Dr. Stephan Schutze, and 
Counsellor (Regierungsrath) Schmidt, which last played 
some sonatas of Beethoven's with rare perfection. I 
also derived great enjoyment from the conversations of 
Goethe and his daughter-in-law, who had all the cheerful- 
ness of youth, and in whom an amiable disposition was 
united with infinite intelligence. 

(Sup.*) Thurs. , Oct. 10. — To an evening party at 
Goethe's, with the renowned Blumenbach from Gottin- 
gen. Blumenbach is old, but with an animated and 
cheerful expression. He has contrived to preserve the 
whole activity of youth. His deportment is such, that no 
one would know that a learned man stood before him. 
His cordiality is frank and jovial ; he is quite uncere- 
monious, and one is soon upon an easy footing with 
him. His acquaintance was to me as interesting as 
agreeable. 

(Sup.*) Tues., Nov. 5. — An evening party at Goethe's. 
Amongst the assembled guests was the artist Kolbe. "We 
were shown a beautifully executed painting by him — a 
copy of Titian's Venus, from the Dresden Gallery. 

This evening, I also found with Goethe, Herr von Esch- 
wege, and the celebrated Hummel. Hummel improvised 
for nearly an hour upon the piano, with a force and a 
talent of which it is impossible to form a conception unless 
one has heard him. I found his conversation simple and 
natural, and himself, for a virtuoso of such celebrity, sur- 
prisingly modest. 

(Sup.*) Tues., Dec. 3. — At an evening party at Goethe's. 
Herren Riemer, Coudray, and Meyer, Goethe's son, and 
Frau von Goethe, were amongst those assembled. 

The students at Jena are in an uproar, and a company 
of artillery has been sent to quiet them. Riemer read a 
collection of songs, which were prohibited, and which had 
thus given occasion or pretext to the revolt. All these 
songs, being read aloud, received decisive applause, on 



l322.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



3 



account of the great talent they displayed. Goethe him- 
self thought well of them, and promised me a private 
inspection of them. 

After we had spent some time in examining copper-plates 
and valuable books, Goethe, to our great delight, read to 
us the poem of " Charon." I could not but admire the 
clear, distinct, and energetic manner in which Goethe read 
the poem. I have never heard so beautiful a declamation. 
What fire ! what a glance ! and what a voice ! Alternately 
like thunder, and then soft and mild. Perhaps, in some 
parts, he displayed too much force for the small room in 
which we were assembled ; but yet there was nothing in 
his delivery which we could wish otherwise. Goethe after- 
wards conversed upon literature, and upon his works, also 
upon Madame de Stael, and kindred subjects. He is at 
present occupied with the translation and arrangement of 
the fragments of the "Phaeton" of Euripides. He began 
this work about a year ago, and has lately resumed it. 

(Sup.*) Thurs., Dec. 5. — This evening, at Goethe's, I 
heard the rehearsal of the first act of an opera which will 
shortly be produced, " The Count of Gleichen," by Eber- 
wein. Since Goethe resigned the direction of the theatre, 
this is the first time, I have been told, that he has had at 
his house so great an operatic company. Herr Eberwein 
directed the singing. Some ladies of Goethe's acquaintance 
joined in the choruses, whilst the solo parts were sung by 
members of the operatic company. Some pieces appeared 
to me very remarkable, especially a canon for four voices. 

(Sup.*) Tues., Dec. 17. — In the evening at Goethe's. He 
was very cheerful, and treated with much spirit the theme 
that the follies of fathers are lost for their children. 

The investigations which are now being made touching 
the discovery of salt springs evidently interested him. He 
inveighed against the stupidity of certain projectors, who 
totally disregard the outward signs, and the position and 
order of the strata under which rock-salt lies, and through 
which the auger must pass, and who, without knowing or 
seeking to discover the right spot, obstinately continue to 
work at random at the same shaft and in the same place. 



4 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l82> 



1823. 

(Sup.*) Mon., Feb. 9. — This evening at Goethe's, whom 
I found alone, in conversation with Meyer. I perused an 
album belonging to bygone times, containing the hand- 
writing of several renowned men, such as Luther, Erasmuf 
Mosheim, and others. The last-mentioned has written, in 
Latin, the following remarkable words : " Renown is a 
source of toil and sorrow ; obscurity is a source of happiness. ;: 

(Sup.*) Mon., Feb. 23. — Goethe has been for some days 
dangerously ill ; yesterday he lay in a hopeless condition. 
To-day, however, a crisis has arrived, by which he appears 
to be saved. Still, this morning he said that he considered 
himself lost ; later, at noon, he seemed to hope that he might 
recover ; and again, in the evening, he said that, if he 
escaped, it must be allowed that, for an old man, he had 
played too high a game. 

(Sup.*) Tues., Feb. 24. — This day has been an anxious 
one on account of Goethe, because there was not at noon 
the same improvement in him which was observable yester- 
day. In a paroxysm of weakness he said to his daughter- 
in-law, " I feel that the moment is come in which the 
struggle between life and death begins within me." Still, 
in the evening the invalid retained his full intellectual con- 
sciousness, and even displayed a playful levity. " You are 
too timid with your remedies," said he to Rehbein ; " you 
spare me too much : when one has a patient like me to deal 
with, one must set to work a little in the Napoleon fashion/' 
Thereupon he drank off a cup of decoction of arnica, which, 
employed by Huschke at the most dangerous moment 
yesterday, had brought on the favourable crisis. Goethe 
gave a beautiful description of this plant, and extolled its 
powerful effect to the skies. He was told that the physicians 
would not allow the grand-duke to see him: "Were I the 
grand-duke," exclaimed Goethe, "I would have asked a 
great deal, and troubled myself a great deal about you." 
At a moment when he felt better, and when his chest 
appeared less oppressed, he spoke with facility and clear 
•Intelligence whereupon Rehbein whispered in the ear of a 
bystander, " A better respiration generally brings with it a 



I82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



5 



better inspiration." Goethe, who heard this, immediately 
exclaimed, very pleasantly, " I knew that long ago ; but 
this truth does not apply to yon, yon rogue." 

Goethe sat upright in his bed, facing the open door of his 
workroom, where his nearest friends were assembled without 
his knowledge. His features appeared to me little altered ; 
his voice was clear and distinct, still there was a solemnity 
in its tone like that of a dying man. " You seem to believe," 
said he to his children, " that I am better, but you deceive 
yourselves." We endeavoured playfully to reason him out 
of his apprehensions, and he appeared to take it in good 
part. More persons were constantly entering the chamber, 
which appeared to me by no means desirable, for the pre- 
sence of so many people would needlessly deteriorate the 
air, and hinder the attendants on the patient. I could not 
forbear to speak of it, and went down into the lower 
room, whence I issued my bulletins to her imperial 
highness. 

(Sup.*) Wed., Feb. 25. — Goethe has caused an account 
to be given of the treatment which has been employed 
towards him up to the present time ; he has also read a list 
of the persons who have made inquiries concerning the state 
of his health, of whom the number daily was very great. 
He afterwards received the grand-duke, and did not appear 
fatigued by his visit. I found fewer persons in his work - 
room to-day ; whereupon I observed, to my joy, that my 
remark yesterday had been productive of some good. Now 
that the disease is removed, people seem to dread the con- 
sequences. His left hand is swollen, and there appear 
threatening precursors of the dropsy. "We shall not know 
for some days what will be the final result of the illness. 
To-day, for the first time, Goethe has inquired after one of 
his friends ; namely, his oldest friend Meyer. He wished to 
show him a scarce medal which he has received from 
Bohemia, and with which he is enraptured. 

I came at twelve o'clock ; and when Goethe heard that 
I had arrived, he had me called to his side. He gave me 
his hand, saying, "You see in me one risen from the 
dead." He then commissioned me to thank her imperial 
highness for the sympathy which she had shown him 
during his illness. " My recovery will be very slow," he 



6 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



added ; " but to the physicians, notwithstanding, belongs 
the honour of having woiked a little miracle upon me." 

After a few minutes I withdrew. His colour is good ; only- 
he has much fallen away, and still breathes with some pain. 
It appeared to me that he spoke with greater difficulty than 
yesterday. The swelling of the left arm is very conspicuous. 
He keeps his eyes closed, and only opens them when he 
speaks. 

(Sup.*) Mon., Mar. 2. — This evening at Goethe's, whom 
I had not seen for several days. He sat in his arm-chair, 
and had with him his daughter and Riemer. He was 
strikingly better. His voice had recovered its natural tone ; 
his breathing was free ; his hand was no longer swollen ; 
his appearance again was what it had been in a state of 
health ; and his conversation was easy. He rose and 
walked, without effort, into his sleeping-room and back. 
We took tea with him ; and as this was the first time, I 
playfully reproached Frau von Goethe with having forgotten 
to place a nosegay on the tea-tray. Frau von Goethe 
directly took a coloured ribbon from her hat, and bound it 
on the tea-urn. This joke appeared to give Goethe much 
pleasure. 

We afterwards examined a collection of imitated jewels, 
which the grand- duke had received from Paris. 

(Sup.*) Sat., Mar. 22. — To-day, in celebration of 
Goethe's recovery, his Tasso was represented at the theatre, 
with a prologue by Riemer, spoken by Frau von Heigen- 
dorf. His bust was adorned with a crown of laurel, amidst 
the loud exclamations of the excited spectators. After the 
performance was over, Frau von Heigendorf went to 
Goethe's. She was still in the costume of Leonora, and 
presented to Goethe the crown of Tasso ; which he took, to 
adorn with it the bust of the Grand- Duchess Alexandra. 

(Sup.*) Wed., Apr. 1. — I brought Goethe, from her 
imperial highness, a number of the French " Journal des 
Modes," in which a translation of his works was discussed. 
On this occasion we conversed on " Rameau's !Ne£fie " 
(Rameau's Nephew), the original of which has long been 
lost. Many Germans believe that the original never 
existed, and that it is all Goethe's own invention. Goethe, 
however, affirms that it would have been impossible for him 



.823.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



7 



to imitate Diderot's spirited style and manner, and that the 
German Xlameau is nothing but a very faithful translation. 

(Sup.*) Fri., Apr. 3. — A portion of this evening was 
passed at Goethe's, in company with Herr Coudray, the 
government architect. We talked about the theatre, and 
the improvements which have taken place in it lately. " I 
have remarked it without going there," said Goethe, 
laughing. "Two months ago my children always came 
home in an ill-humour ; they were never satisfied with the 
entertainment which had been provided. But now they 
have turned over a new leaf; they come with joyful 
countenances, because for once and away they can have a 
good cry. Yesterday, they owed this ' pleasure in weep- 
ing ' f to a drama by Kotzebue." 

(Sup.*) Wed., Apr., 13. — This evening alone with 
Goethe. We talked about literature, Lord Byron, his 
Sardanapalus and Werner. We then came to Faust, a 
subject on which. Goethe frequently and willingly speaks. 
He wished that it might be translated into French, in the 
style of Marot's period. He considers it as the source 
whence Byron derived the tone of his " Manfred." Goethe 
thinks that Byron has made decided progress in his two 
last tragedies ; because in these he appears less gloomy and 
misanthropical. We afterwards spoke about the text of 
" Zauberfiote," to which Goethe has written a sequel; but 
he has not yet found a composer to treat the subject 
properly. He admits that the well-known first part is full 
of improbabilities and jests which every one cannot 
understand and appreciate; still we must at all events 
allow that the author understood, to a high degree, the art 
of producing great theatrical effects by means of contrasts. 

(Sup.*) Wed., Apr. 15. — This evening at Goethe's, 
with the Countess Caroline Egloffstein. Goethe joked 
about the German almanacs, and some other periodical 
publications ; all pervaded by a ridiculous sentimentality, 
which appears to be the order of the day. The Countess 
remarked that German novelists had made the beginning, 
by spoiling the taste of their numerous readers ; and that 

+ These words " Wonne der Thranen " are put in inverted commas, 
probably with reference to " Wonne der Wehmuth," the title of a 
little poem by Goethe. — Trans. 



8 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



now the readers spoil the novelists, because, in order to find 
a publisher for their manuscripts, they must suit the 
prevailing bad taste of the public. 

(Sup.*) Sun., Apr. 26. — I found Coudray and Meyer 
at Goethe's. We conversed on various subjects. " The 
library of the grand-duke," said Goethe, among other 
things, " contains a globe, which was made by a Spaniard 
in the reign of Charles Y. There are some remarkable 
inscriptions upon it, as, for example, 'the Chinese are 
a people bearing a strong resemblance to the Germans.' " 

"In former times," continued Goethe, "the African 
deserts were depicted on the maps, with representations of 
the wild beasts. In the present day, this custom is 
ubandoned ; the geographers prefer to leave us carte 
blanche." 

(Sup.*) Wed., May 6. — This evening at Goethe's. He 
endeavoured to give me an idea of his theory of colours. 
"Light," said he, "is by no means a compound of different 
colours ; neither can light alone produce any colour ; for 
that requires a certain modification and blending of light 
and shade." 

(Sup.*) Tues., May 13. — I found Goethe occupied 
with collecting his little poems and short addresses 
(Bldttchen) to persons. " In earlier times," said he, "when 
I was more careless with my things, and neglected to make 
copies, I lost hundreds of such verses." 

(Sup.*) Mon., June 2. — The chancellor, Biemer, and 
Meyer were with Goethe. We discussed Beranger's 
poems ; and Goethe commented upon, and paraphrased 
some of them, with great originality and good humour. 

The conversation then turned on natural science (physih) 
and meteorology. Goethe is on the point of working out 
a theory of the weather, in which he will ascribe the rise 
and fall of the barometer entirely to the action of the 
earth, and to her attraction and repulsion of the atmosphere. 

" The scientific men, and especially the mathematicians," 
continued Goethe, "will not fail to consider my ideas 
perfectly ridiculous ; or else they will do still better : they 
will totally ignore them in a most stately manner. But do 
you know why ? Because they say that I am not one of 
the craft." 



1823.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



9 



"The caste spirit of the learned by profession," I 
replied, " is very pardonable. When errors have crept into 
their theories, and have been borne along with them, we 
must seek for the canse in this : that such errors were 
handed down to them as dogmas, at a time when they 
themselves were still seated on their school-benches." 

"That is true," exclaimed Goethe; "your learned men 
act like the bookbinders of Weimar. The masterpiece 
that is required of them to be admitted into the corporation 
is not a pretty binding, in the newest style. No ; far from 
that. There must always be supplied a thick folio bible, 
just in the fasliion of two or three hundred years ago, with 
clumsy covers, and in strong leather. The task is an 
absurdity. But it would go hard with the poor workman 
if he were to affirm that his examiners were blockheads." 

t Weimar, June 10. — I arrived here a few days ago, but 
did not see Goethe till to-day. He received me with great 
cordiality ; and the impression he made on me was such, 
that I consider this day as one of the happiest in my life. 

Yesterday, when 1 called to inquire, he fixed to-day at 
twelve o'clock as the time when he would be glad to see 
me. I went at the appointed time, and found a servant 
waiting for me, preparing to conduct me to him. 

The interior of the house made a very pleasant impression 
upon me ; without being showy, everything was extremely 
simple and noble ; even the casts from antique statues, 
placed upon the stairs, indicated Goethe's especial partiality 
for plastic art, and for Grecian antiquity. I saw several 
ladies moving busily about in the lower part of the house, 
and one of Ottilic's beautiful boys, who came familiarly up 
to me, and looked fixedly in my face. 

After I had cast a glance around, I ascended the stairs, 
with the very talkative servant, to the first floor. He 
opened a room, on the threshold of which the motto Salve 
was stepped over as a good omen of a friendly welcome. 
He led me through this apartment and opened another, 
somewhat more spacious, where he requested me to wait, 
while he went to announce me to his master. The air here 

f This is the first day in Eckermann's first book, and the first 
time in which he speaks in this book, as distinguished from Sorct. 
• — Trans. 



10 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[.823. 



was most cool and refreshing ; on the floor was spread a 
carpet : the room was furnished with a crimson sofa and 
chairs, which gave a cheerful aspect ; on one side stood a 
piano; and the walls were adorned with many pictures 
and drawings, of various sorts and sizes. 

Through an open door opposite, one looked into a farther 
room, also hung with pictures, through which the servant 
had gone to announce me. 

It was not long before Goethe came in, dressed in a blue 
frock-coat, and with shoes. What a sublime form ! The 
impression upon me was surprising. But he soon dispelled 
all uneasiness by the kindest words. We sat down on the 
sofa. I felt in a happy perplexity, through his look and 
his presence, and could say little or nothing. 

He began by speaking of my manuscript. " I have just 
come from you" said he ; "I have been reading your 
writing all the morning ; it needs no recommendation — it 
recommends itself." He praised the clearness of the style, 
the flow of the thought, and the peculiarity, that all rested 
on a solid basis, and had been thoroughly considered. " I 
will soon forward it," said he ; " to-day I shall write to Cotta 
by post, and send him the parcel to-morrow." I thanked 
him with words and looks. 

We then talked of my proposed excursion. I told him 
that my design was to go into the Rhineland, where T 
intended to stay at a suitable place, and write something- 
new. First, however, I would go to Jena, and there awcii; 
Herr von Cotta's answer. 

Goethe asked whether I had acquaintance in Jena. I 
replied that I hoped to come in contact with Herr von 
Knebel ; on which he promised me a letter which would 
insure me a more favourable reception. "And, indeed," 
said he, "while you are in Jena, we shall be near neigh- 
bours, and can see or write to one another as often as 
Ave please." 

We sat a long while together, in a tranquil, affectionate 
mood. I war. close to him ; I forgot to speak for looking 
at him — I could not look enough. His face is so powerful 
and brown ! full of wrinkles, and each wrinkle full of ex- 
pression ! And everywhere there is such nobleness and 
firmness, sucli repose and greatness ! He spoke in a slow, 



I82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



11 



composed manner, such as you would expect from an aged 
monarch. You perceive by his air that he reposes apon 
himself, and is elevated far above both praise and blame. 
I was extremely happy near him ; I felt becalmed like one 
who, after many toils and tedious expectations, finally sees 
his dearest wishes gratified. 

He then spoke of my letter, and remarked that I was 
perfectly right, and that, if one can treat one matter with 
clearness, one is fitted for many things besides. 

"No one can tell what turn this may take," said he ; "I 
have many good friends in Berlin, and have lately thought 
of you in that quarter." Here he smiled pleasantly to 
himself. He then pointed out to me what I ought now to 
see in Weimar, and said he would desire secretary Krauter 
to be my cicerone. Above all, I must not fail to visit the 
theatre. He asked me where 1 lodged, saying that he 
should like to see me once more, and would send for me at 
a suitable time. 

We bade each other an affectionate farewell ; I was 
supremely happy ; for every word of his spoke kindness, 
and I felt that he was thoroughly well-intentioned to- 
wards me. 

Wed., June 11. — This morning I received a card from 
Groethe, written by his own hand, desiring me to come to 
him. I went and staid an hour. He seemed quite a 
different man from that of yesterday, and had the im- 
petuous and decided manner of a youth. 

He entered, bringing two thick books. " It is not well," 
said he, "that you should go from us so soon ; let us be- 
come better acquainted. I wish more ample opportunity 
to see and talk with you. But, as the field of generalities 
is so wide, I have thought of something in particular, whieh 
may serve as a ground-work for intercourse. These 
two volumes contain the ' Frankfurter Grelekrte Anzeigen ' 
(Frankfort Literary Notices) of the years 1772 and 1773, 
among which are almost all my little critiques written at 
that time. These are not marked ; but, as you are familiar 
with my style and tone of thought, you will easily dis- 
tinguish them from the others. I would have you examine 
somewhat more elosely these youthful productions, and tell 
me what you think of them. I wish to know whether 



12 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



£hey deserve a place in a future edition of my works. 
From my present self these things stand so far, that I have 
no judgment about them. But you younger people can 
tell whether "they are to you of any value, and how far they 
suit our present literary point of view. I have already had 
copies taken of them, which you can have by-and-by to 
compare with the originals. Afterwards, by a careful 
survey, we might ascertain whether here and there some 
trifle might not be left out, or touched up with advantage, 
and without injuring the general character of the whole." 

I replied that I would gladly make the attempt, and that 
nothing could gratify me more than to proceed according to 
his intention. 

"You will find yourself perfectly competent," said he, 
" when you have once entered on the employment ; it will 
Dome quite naturally to you." 

He then told me that he intended to set ofi for Marien- 
bad in a week, and that he should be glad if I could remain 
at Weimar till then ; that we might see one another in the 
mean time, and become better acquainted. 

" I wish, too," said he, " that you would not merely pass 
a few days or weeks in Jena, but would live there all the 
summer, till I return from Marienbad towards the autumn. 
Already I have written about a lodging for you, and other 
things of the kind necessary to make your stay convenient 
and pleasant. 

" You will find there the most various resources and 
means for f urther studies, and a very cultivated social 
circle ; besides, the country presents so many aspects, that 
you may take fifty walks, each different from the others, 
each pleasant, and almost all suited for undisturbed medi- 
tation. You will find there plenty of leisure and oppor- 
tunity to write many new things for yourself, and also to 
accomplish my designs." 

I could make no objection to such good proposals, and 
consented joyfully to them all. When I departed he was 
especially amiable, and he fixed another hour the day after 
to-morrow for further converse. 

Mon., June 16. — I have lately been frequently with 
Goethe. To-day, we talked principally of business. I 
declared my opinion also of his Frankfort criticisms, 



I82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



13 



calling them echoes of his academic years, an expression 
which seemed to please him, as marking the point of view 
from which these youthful productions should be regarded. 

He then gave me the first eleven numbers of " Kunst 
und Alterthum,"* that I might take them with me to Jena, 
together with the Frankfort critiques as a second task. 

" It is my wish," said he, "that you should study care- 
fully these numbers, and not only make a general index of 
contents, but also set down what subjects are not to be 
looked upon as concluded, that I may thus see at once what 
threads I have to take up again and spin longer. This 
will be a great assistance to me, and so far an advantage to 
you, that, in this practical way, you will more keenly ob- 
serve and apprehend the import of each particular treatise, 
than by common perusal, regulated solely by inclination." 

I found these remarks judicious, and said that I would 
willingly undertake this labour also. 

Thurs., June 19. — I was to have gone to Jena to-day; 
but Goethe yesterday requested earnestly that I would stay 
till Sunday, and then go by the post. He gave me yester- 
day the letters of recommendation, and also one for the 
family of Frommann. " You will enjoy their circle," said 
he ; "I have passed many delightful evenings there. Jean 
Paul, Tieck, the Schlegels, and all the other distinguished 
men of Germany, have visited there, and always with 
delight ; and even now it is the union-point of many 
learned men, artistes, and other persons of note. In a 
few weeks, write to me at Marienbad, that I may know 
how you are going on, and how you are pleased with Jena. 
I have requested my son to visit you there during my 
absence." 

I felt very grateful to Goethe for so much care, and was 
very happy to see that he regarded me as one of his own, 
and wished me to be so considered. 



Saturday, the 21st June, I bade farewell to Goethe, and 
on the following day went to Jena, where I established 
myself in a rural dwelling, with very good, respectable 
people. In the families of von Knebel and Frommann, I 
found, on Goethe's recommendation, a cordial reception 
* Art and Antiquity. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



and very instructive society. I made the best possible 
progress with the work I had taken with me, and had, 
besides, the pleasure of receiving a letter from Herr von 
Cotta, in which he not only declared himself ready to pub- 
lish my manuscript which had been sent him, but promised 
me a handsome remuneration, adding that I myself should 
superintend the printing at Jena. 

Thus my subsistence was secured for at least a year, and 
I felt the liveliest desire to produce something new at this 
time, and so to found my future prosperity as an author. 
I hoped that I had already, in my " Beitrage zur Poesie," 
come to an end with theory and criticism ; I had in them 
endeavoured to get clear views as to the principal laws of 
art, and my whole inner nature now urged me to a practical 
application. I had plans for innumerable poems, both long 
and short, also for dramas of various sorts ; and I had now, 
as I thought, only to think which way I should turn, to 
produce one after the other, with some degree of conveni- 
ence to myself. 

I was not long content in Jena ; my life there was too 
quiet and uniform. I longed for a great city, where there 
was not only a good theatre, but where a popular life was 
developed on a great scale, that I might seize upon im- 
portant elements of life, and advance my own mental 
culture as rapidly as possible. In such a town, too, I 
hoped to live quite unobserved, and to be free always to 
isolate myself for completely undisturbed production. 

Meanwhile, I had sketched the index which Goethe 
wished for the first four volumes of " Kunst und Alter- 
thum," and sent it to Marienbad with a letter, in which I 
openly expressed my plans and wishes. I received in 
answer the following lines : — 

" The index arrived just at the right time, and corres- 
ponds precisely with my wishes and intentions. Let me, 
when I return, find the Frankfort criticisms arranged in a 
like maimer, and receive my best thanks, which I already 
silently pay beforehand, by carrying about with me your 
views, situation, wishes, aims, and plans, so that, on my 
return, I may be able to discuss more solidly your future 
welfare. To-day I will say no more. My departure from 
Marienbad gives me much to think of and to do, while my 



I82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



15 



stay, all too brief, with persons of interest, occasions pain- 
ful feelings. 

" May I find yon in that state of tranqnil activity, from 
which, after all, views of the world and experiences are 
evolved in the snrest and pnrest manner. Farewell. Re- 
joice with me in the anticipation of a prolonged and more 
intimate acquaintance. — Goethe. — Marienbad, Aug. 14, 
1823." 

By these lines of Goethe's, the reception of which made 
me extremely happy, I felt tranquillized as to the future. 
They determined me to take no step for myself, but to be 
wholly resigned to his will and counsel. Meanwhile, I 
wrote some little poems, finished arranging the Frankfort 
criticisms, and expressed my opinion of them in a short 
treatise, intended for Goethe. I looked forward with eager- 
ness to his return from Marienbad ; for my " Beitriige zur 
Poesie " was almost through the press, and I wished, at all 
events, to refresh myself this autumn, by going for a few 
weeks to the Rhine. 

Jena, Sept. 15. — Goethe is returned safe from Marienbad, 
but, as his country-house in this place is not so convenient 
as he requires, he will only stay here a few days. He is 
well and active, so that he can take walks several miles long, 
and it is truly delightful to see him. 

After an interchange of joyful greetings, Goethe com- 
menced speaking on the subject of my affairs : — 

" To speak out [plainly," he began, " it is my wish that 
you should pass this winter with me in Weimar." These 
were his first words. Approaching closer to me, he con- 
tinued thus : — " With respect to poetry and criticism, you 
are in the best possible condition. You have a natural foun- 
dation for them. They are your profession, to which you 
must adhere, and which will soon bring you a good livelihood. 
But yet there is much, not strictly appertaining to this de- 
partment, which you ought to know. It is, however, a 
great point that you should not expend much time upon 
this, but get over it quickly. This you shall do with us 
this winter in Weimar, and you will wonder to find what 
progress you have made by Easter. You shall have the 
best of everything ; because the best means are in my hands. 
Thus you will have laid a firm foundation for life. You will 



16 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



['8*3- 



have attained a feeling of comfort, and will be able to appear 
iiny where with, confidence." 

I was much pleased by this proposal, and replied, that I 
would regulate myself entirely by his views and wishes. 

" With a home in my neighbourhood," continued Goethe, 
" I will provide you ; you shall pass no unprofitable moment 
during the whole winter. Much that is good is brought 
together in Weimar, and you will gradually find, in the 
higher circles, a society equal to the best in any of the great 
cities. Besides, many eminent men are personally connected 
with me. With them you will gradually make acquaintance, 
and you will find their conversation in the highest degree 
useful and instructive." 

Goethe then mentioned many distinguished men, in- 
dicating, in a few words, the peculiar merits of each. 

"Where else," he continued, "would you find so much 
good in such a narrow space ? We also possess an excellent 
library, and a theatre which, in the chief requisites, does 
not yield to the best in other German towns. Therefore, — 
I repeat it, — stay with us, and not only this winter, but 
make Weimar your home. From thence proceed high- 
ways to all quarters of the globe. In summer you can 
travel, and see, by degrees, what you wish. I have lived 
there fifty years ; and where have I not been ? But I was 
always glad to return to Weimar." 

I was very happy in being again with Goethe, and hear- 
ing him talk, and I felt that my whole soul was devoted to 
him. If I could only have thee, thought I, all else will 
go well with me. So I repeated to him the assurance 
that I was ready to do whatever he, after weighing the 
circumstances of my peculiar situation, should think 
right. 

Jena, Thurs., Sept. 18. — Yesterday morning, before 
Goethe's return to Weimar, I had the happiness of another 
interview with him. What he said at that time was quite 
important ; to me it was quite invaluable, and will have a 
beneficial influence on all my life. All the young poets 
of Germany should know it, as it may be of great profit to 
them. 

He introduced the conversation by asking me whether I 
had written any poems this summer. I replied that 1 had 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



17 



indeed written some, but that on the whole 1 lacked the 
feeling of ease requisite for production. 

" Beware," said he, " of attempting a large work. It is 
exactly that which injures our best minds, even those dis- 
tinguished by the finest talents and the most earnest efforts. 
I have suffered from this cause, and know how much it 
injured me. What have I not let fall into the well ? If I 
had written all that I well might, a hundred volumes would 
not contain it. 

" The Present will have its rights ; the thoughts and 
feelings which daily press upon the poet will and should bo 
expressed. But, if you have a great work in your head, 
nothing else thrives near it, all other thoughts are repelled, 
and the pleasantness of life itself is for the time lost. What 
exertion and expenditure of mental force are required to 
arrange and round off a great whole, and then what powers, 
and what a tranquil, undisturbed situation in life, to express 
it with the proper fluency. If you have erred as to the 
whole, all your toil is lost ; and further, if, in treating so 
extensive a subject, you are not perfectly master of your 
material in the details, the whole will be defective, and cen- 
sure will be incurred. Thus, for all his toil and sacrifice, 
the poet gets, instead of reward and pleasure, nothing but 
discomfort and a paralysis of his powers. But if he daily 
seizes the present, and always treats with a freshness of 
feeling what is offered him, he always makes sure of some- 
thing good, and if he sometimes does not succeed, has, at 
least, lost nothing. 

"There is August Hagen, in Konigsberg, a splendid 
talent : have you ever read his ' Olfried and Lisena ? ' 
There you may find passages which could not be better ; 
the situations on the Baltic, and the other particulars of 
that locality, are all masterly. But these are only fine 
passages ; as a whole, it pleases nobody. And what labour 
and power he has lavished upon it ; indeed, he has almost 
exhausted himself. Now, he has been writing a tragedy." 
Here Goethe smiled, and paused for a moment. I took up 
the discourse, and said that, if I was not mistaken, he had 
advised Hagen (in ' Kunst und Alterthum ') to treat only 
small subjects. " I did so, indeed," he replied ; " but do 
people conform to the instructions of us old ones ? Each 

c 



13 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



thinks lie must know best about himself, and thus many 
are lost entirely, and many for a long time go astray. Now 
it is no more the time to blunder about — that belonged to 
us old ones; and what was the use of all our seeking 
and blundering, if you young people choose to go the very 
same way over again. In this way we can never get on at 
all. Our errors were endured because we found no beaten 
path ; but from him who comes later into the world more 
is required ; he must not be seeking and blundering, but 
should use the instructions of the old ones to proceed at 
once on the right path. It is not enough to take steps 
which may some day lead to a goal ; each step must be 
itself a goal and a step likewise. 

" Carry these words about with you, and see how you 
can apply them to yourself. Not that I really feel uneasy 
about you, but perhaps by my advice I help you quickly 
over a period which is not suitable to your present situation. 
If you treat, at present, only small subjects, freshly dashing 
off what every day offers you, you will generally produce 
something good, and each day will bring you pleasure. 
Give what you do to the pocket-books and periodicals, but 
never submit yourself to the requisition of others ; always 
follow your own sense. 

" The world is so great and rich, and life so full of 
variety, that you can never want occasions for poems. But 
they must all be occasional * poems ; that is to say, reality 
must give both impulse and material for their production. 
A particular case becomes universal and poetic by the very 
circumstance that it is treated by a poet. All my poems 
are occasional poems, suggested by real life, and having 
therein a firm foundation. I attach no value to poems 
snatched out of the air. 

" Let no one say that reality wants poetical interest ; for 
in this the poet proves his vocation, that he has the art to 

* The word " Gelegenheitsgedicht " (occasional poem) properly 
applies to poems written for special occasions, such as birthdays, 
weddings, &c, but Goethe here extends the meaning, as he himself 
explains. As the English word "occasional" often implies no more 
than " occurrence now and then," the phrase "occasional poem" is 
not very happy, and is only used for want of a better. The reader 
must conceive the word in the limited sease, produced on some special 
event." — Trans. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



19 



win from a common subject an interesting side. Reality 
must give the motive, the points to be expressed, the 
kernel, as I may say ; but to work out of it a beautiful, 
animated whole, belongs to the poet. You know Fiirnstein, 
called the Poet of Nature; he has written the prettiest 
poem possible, on the cultivation of hops. I have now 
proposed to him to make songs for the different crafts of 
working-men, particularly a weaver's song, and I am sure 
he will do it well, for he has lived among such people from 
his youth ; he understands the subject thoroughly, and is 
therefore master of his material. That is exactly the ad- 
vantage of small works ; you need only choose those sub- 
jects of which you are master. With a great poem, this 
cannot be : no part can be evaded ; all which belongs to 
the animation of the whole, and is interwoven into the 
plan, must be represented with precision. In youth, how- 
ever, the knowledge of things is only one-sided. A great 
work requires many-sidedness, and on that rock the young 
author splits." 

I told Groethe that I had contemplated writing a great 
poem upon the seasons, in which I might interweave the 
employments and amusements of all classes. " Here is the 
very case in point," replied Groethe; "you may succeed in 
many parts, but fail in others which refer to what you have 
not duly investigated. Perhaps you would do the fisher- 
man well, and the huntsman ill ; and if you fail anywhere, 
the whole is a failure, however good single parts may be, 
and you have not produced a perfect work. Give separately 
the single parts to which you are equal, and you make sure 
of something good. 

" I especially warn you against great inventions of your 
own ; for then you would try to give a view of things, and 
for that purpose youth is seldom ripe. Further, character 
and views detach themselves as sides from the poet's mind, 
and deprive him of the fulness requisite for future pro- 
ductions. And, finally, how much time is lost in invention, 
internal arrangement, and combination, for which nobody 
thanks us, even supposing our work is happily accom- 
plished. 

" With a given material, on the other hand, all goes easier 
and better. Facts and characters being provided, the poet 

c2 



20 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



has only the task of animating the -whole. He preserves 
his own fulness, for he needs to part with but little of 
himself, and there is much less loss of time and power, 
since he has only the trouble of execution. Indeed, I would 
advise tho choice of subjects which have been worked 
before. How many Iphigenias have been written! yet 
they are all different, for each writer considers and arranges 
the subject differently ; namely, after his own fashion. 

" But, for the present, you had better lay aside all great 
undertakings. You have striven long enough ; it is time 
that you should enter into the cheerful period of life, and 
for the attainment of this, the working out of small subjects 
is the best expedient." 

During this conversation, we had been walking up and 
down the room. I could do nothing but assent, for I felt 
the truth of each word through my whole being. At each 
step I felt lighter and happier, for I must confess that 
various grand schemes, of which I had not as yet been abla 
to take a clear view, had been no little burden to me. 1 
have now thrown them aside, and shall let them rest till 1 
can take up and sketch off one subject and one part after 
another in cheerfulness, as by study of the world I grad- 
ually become master of the several parts of the material. 

I feel, through these words of Goethe's, several years 
wiser, and perceive, in the very depths of my soul, the 
good fortune of meeting with a true master. The 
advantage is incalculable. 

What shall I not learn from him this winter ! what shall 
I not gain merely from intercourse with him, even in times 
when he does not speak what is so very important ! His 
personality, his mere presence, seems to educate me, even 
when he does not speak a word. 

Weimar, Thurs., Oct. 2. — I came here yesterday from 
Jena, favoured by very agreeable weather. Immediately 
after my arrival, Goethe, by way of welcoming me to 
Weimar, sent me a season-ticket for the theatre. I passed 
yesterday in making my domestic arrangements ; and the 
rather, as they were very busy at Goethe's ; for the French 
Ambassador from Frankfort, Count Reinhard, and tho 
Prussian State Councillor (Staatsrath) Schultz, from 
Berlin, had come to visit him. 



1823.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



21 



This forenoon I was again at Goethe's. He was rejoiced 
to see me, and was in every way kind and amiable. As I 
was about to take my leave, he said he would first make me 
acquainted with the State Councillor, Schultz. He took 
me into the next room, where I found that gentleman busy 
in looking at the works of art, introduced me, and then left 
us together for further disccurse. 

"I am very glad," said Schultz, "that you are to stay 
in Weimar, and assist Goethe in arranging his unpublished 
works. He has been telling me how much advantage he 
promises himself from your assistance, and that he now 
hopes to complete many new plans." 

I replied that I had no other aim in life than to aid 
German literature ; and that, in the hope of being useful 
here, I had willingly laid aside, for the present, my own 
literary designs. I added, that a practical intercourse with 
Goethe would have a most favourable effect on my own 
culture. I hoped, by this means, to gain a certain maturity 
in some years, and thus, in the end, better to perform 
those tasks for which I was at ^present less perfectly 
prepared. 

" Certainly," replied Schultz, "the personal influence of 
so extraordinary a man and a master as Goethe is quite 
invaluable. I, too, have come hither to refresh myself once 
more from his great mind." 

He then inquired about the printing of my book, 
concerning which Goethe had written to him last summer. 
I said that I hoped, in a few days, to receive the first copies 
from Jena, and would not fail to present him with one, and 
to send it to Berlin, if he should not be here. 

We separated with a cordial shake of the hand. 

Tugs., Oct. 14. — This evening, I went for the first time to 
a large tea-party at Goethe's. I arrived first, and enjoyed 
the view of the brilliantly lighted apartments, which, 
through open doors, led one into the other. In one of the 
furthest, I found Goethe, who came to meet me, with a 
cheerful air. He was dressed in black, and wore his star, 
which became him so well. We were for a while alone, 
and went into the so-called " covered room " (Declcenzimmer) , 
where the picture of the Aldobrandine Marriage, which was 
hung above a red couch, especially attracted my attention. 



22 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



On the green curtains being drawn aside, the picture was 
"before my eyes in a broad light, and I was delighted to 
contemplate it quietly. 

"Yes," said Goethe, "the ancients had not only great 
intentions, but they carried them into effect. On the 
contrary, we moderns have also great intentions, but are 
seldom able to bring them out with such power and 
freshness as we have thought them." 

Now came Riemer, Meyer, Chancellor von Muller, and 
many other distinguished gentlemen and ladies of the 
court. Goethe's son and Frau von Goethe, with whom I 
was now for the first time made acquainted, also entered. 
The ruoms filled gradually, and there was life and cheer- 
fulness in them all. Some pretty youthful foreigners were 
present, with whom Goethe spoke French. 

The society pleased me, all were so free and unconstrained ; 
each stood or sat, laughed^ and talked with this person 
and that, just as he pleased. I had a lively conversation 
with young Goethe about Houwald's "Bild "(picture), * 
which was given a few days since. We had the 
same opinion about the piece, and I was greatly pleased to 
see this young man expound the different points with so 
much animation and intelligence. 

Goethe himself appeared very amiable in society. He went 
about from one to another, and seemed to prefer listening, 
and hearing his guests talk, to talking much himself. Frau 
von Goethe would often come and lean upon him, and kiss 
him. I had lately said to him that I enjoyed the theatre 
highly, and that I felt great pleasure in giving myself up 
to the impression of the piece, without reflecting much 
upon it. This to him seemed right, and suited to my 
present state. 

He came to me with Frau von Goethe. " This is my 
daughter-in-law," said he ; "do you know each other ? " 

We told him that we had just become acquainted. 

" He is as much a child about a theatre as you, Ottilie ! " 
said he ; and we exchanged congratulations upon this taste 
which we had in common. "My daughter," continued he, 
" never misses an evening." 

" That is all veiy well," said I, " as long as they give* 
* A drama of some celebrity. — Trans. 



•82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



23 



good lively pieces ; but when the pieces are bad, they try 
the patience." 

" But," said Goethe, " it is a good thing that yon cannot 
leave, but are forced to hear and see even what is bad. By this 
means, you are penetrated with the hatred for the bad, and 
come to a clearer insight into the good. In reading, it is 
not so, — you throw aside the book, if it displeases you ; but 
at the theatre you must endure." I gave my assent, and 
thought how the old gentleman always said something 
opportune. 

We now separated, and joined the rest, who were loudly 
and merrily amusing themselves about us, — now in this 
room, now in that. Goethe went to the ladies, and I joined 
Riemer and Meyer, who told us much about Italy. 

Afterwards, Councillor Schmidt seated himself at tho 
piano, and played some of Beethoven's pieces, which 
seemed to be received with deep sympathy by the company. 
An intelligent lady then related many interesting particulars 
respecting Beethoven. Ten o'clock came at last, and thus 
had passed an extremely pleasant evening. 

Sun., Oct. 19. — To-day, I dined for the first time with 
Goethe. No one was present except Frau von Goethe, 
Fraulein Ulrica, and little Walter, and thus we were all 
very comfortable. Goethe appeared now solely as father 
of a family, helping to all the dishes, carving the roast 
fowls with great dexterity, and not forgetting between 
whiles to fill the glasses. We had much lively chat about 
the theatre, young English people, and other topics of the 
day ; Fraulein Ulrica was especially lively and entertaining. 
Goethe was generally silent, coming out only now and then 
with some pertinent remark. From time to time he glanced 
at the newspaper, now and then reading us some passages, 
especially about the progress of the Greeks. 

They then talked about the necessity of my learning 
English, and Goethe earnestly advised me to do so, par- 
ticularly on account of Lord Byron ; saying, that a character 
of such eminence had never existed before, and probably 
would never come again. They discussed the merits of the 
different teachers here, but found none with a thoroughly 
good pronunciation ; on which account they deemed it 
better to go to some young Englishman. 



24 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



After dinner, Goethe showed me some experiments relat- 
ing to his theory of colours. The subject was, however, 
new to me ; I neither understood the phenomena, nor what 
he said about them. Nevertheless, I hoped that the future 
would afford me leisure and opportunity to initiate myself 
a little into this science. 

Tues., Oct. 21. — I went to see Goethe this evening. We 
talked of his " Pandora." I asked him whether this poem 
was to be regarded as a whole, or whether there was any- 
thing further. He said there was nothing further in exist- 
ence, and that he had written no more for the very reason 
that the first part was planned on so large a scale, that he 
could not afterwards get through with a second. Besides, 
what was done might be regarded as a whole, so he felt 
quite easy about the matter. 

I said that I had only penetrated the meaning of this 
difficult poem by degrees, namely, after I had read it so 
many times as almost to know it by heart. Goethe smiled, 
and said, " I can well believe that ; for all its parts arc, as 
one may say, wedged one within another." 

I added, that I could not be perfectly satisfied with Schu- 
"barth's remarks upon this poem, who found there united all 
which had been said separately in " Werther," " Wilhelm 
Meistcr," "Faust," and the "Elective Affinities," thus 
making the matter very incomprehensible and difficult. 
" Schubarth," said Goethe, " often goes a little deep, but 
he is very clever, and all his words are fraught with deep 
meaning." 

We spoke of Uhland, and Goethe said, "When I see 
great effects, I am apt to suppose great causes ; and, with 
a popularity so extensive as that of Uhland, there must be 
something superior about him. However, I can scarcely 
form a judgment as to his poems (" Gedichte.") I took up 
his book with the best intentions, but fell immediately on so 
many weak and gloomy poems that I could not proceed. I 
then tried his ballads, where I really did find distinguished 
talent, and could plainly see that there was some foundation 
for his celebrity." 

I then asked Goethe his opinion as to the kind of verse 
proper for German tragedy. "People in Germany," he 
replied, " will scarcely come to an agreement on that point. 



I82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



25 



Every one does just as he likes, and as lie finds somewhat 
suitable to his subject. The Iambic trimetre would be the 
most dignified measure, but it is too long for us Germans, 
who, for want of epithets, generally find five feet quite 
enough. The English, on account of their many mono- 
syllables, cannot even get on so far as we do." 

Goethe then showed me some copperplates, and after- 
wards talked about old German architecture, adding that, 
by degrees, he would show me a great deal in this way. 

"We see in the works of the old German architecture/' 
he said, " the flower of an extraordinary state of things. 
Whoever comes immediately close to such a flower, will 
only stare at it with astonishment ; but he who sees into 
the secret inner life of the plant, into the stirring of its 
powers, and observes how the flower gradually unfolds 
itself, sees the matter with quite different eyes— he knows 
what he sees. 

"I will take care that in the course of this winter you 
attain more insight into this important subject, that when 
you visit the Rhine next summer, the sight of the Minster 
of Strasburg and the Cathedral of Cologne may do you 
some good." 

(Sup.*) Fri., Oct. 24. — This evening at Goethe's. 
Madame Szymanowska, whose acquaintance he made 
this summer, at Marienbad, played a fantasia on the 
piano. Goethe, absorbed in listening, seemed at times 
much affected. 

Sat., Oct. 25. — At twilight, I passed half an hour at 
Goethe's. He sat in a wooden arm-chair before his table. 
I found him in a singularly gentle mood, as one who is 
quite filled with celestial peace, or who is recalling a de- 
licious happiness which he has enjoyed, and which again 
floats before his soul in all its fulness. Sladelman gave me 
a seat near him. 

We talked of the theatre, which was one of the topics 
which chiefly interested me this winter. The " Erden- 
nacht " (Night on Earth) of Raupach was the last piece I 
had seen. I gave it as my opinion that the piece was not 
brought before us as it existed in the mind of the poet ; 
that the Idea was more predominant than Life ; that it was 
rather lyric than dramatic ; and that what was spun out 



26 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



through five acts would have been far better in two or 
three. Goethe added that the idea of the whole which 
turned upon aristocracy and democracy, was by no means 
of universal interest to humanity. 

I then praised those pieces of Kotzebue's which I had 
seen — namely, his " Verwandschaf ten " (Affinities), and 
his " Versohnung " (Reconciliation). I praised in them 
the quick eye for real lif e, the dexterity at seizing its in- 
teresting side, and the genuine and forcible representation 
of it. Goethe agreed with me. " What has kept its place 
for twenty years, and enjoys the favour of the people, 5 ' 
said he, "must have something in it. When KotzeLue 
contented himself with his own sphere, and did not go 
beyond his powers, he usually did well. It was the same 
with him as with Chodowiecky, who always succeeded per- 
fectly with the scenes of common citizens' life, while if he- 
attempted to paint Greek or Roman heroes it proved a 
failure." 

He named several other good pieces of Kotzebue's, 
especially " die beiden Klinsberge" (the two Klingsbergs). 
"None can deny," said he, "that Kotzebue has looked 
about a great deal in life, and ever kept his eyes open. 

" Intellect, and some poetry, cannot be denied to our 
modern tragic poets, but most of them are incapable of 
an easy, living representation ; they strive after something 
beyond their powers ; and for that reason I might call them 
forced talents." 

" I doubt," said I, " whether such poets could write a 
piece in prose, and am of opinion that this would be the 
true touchstone of their talent." Goethe agreed with me, 
adding that versification enhanced, and even called forth 
poetic feeling. 

We then talked about various works. The conversation 
turned upon his " Journey through Frankfort and Stuttgard 
to Switzerland," which he has lying by him in three parts, 
in sheets, and which he will send me, in order that I may 
read the details, and plan how they may be formed into a 
whole. "You will see," said he, "that it was all written 
off on the impulse of the moment ; there was no thought of 
plan or artistical rounding : it was like pouring water from 
a bucket." 



1823.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



27 



I was pleased with this simile, which seemed very appro- 
priate, to illustrate a thing utterly without plan. 

Mon., Oct 27. — This morning, I was invited to a tea- 
party and concert, which were to be given at Goethe's 
house this evening. The servant showed me the list of 
persons to be invited, from which I saw that the company 
would be very large and brilliant. He said a young Polish 
lady had arrived, who would play on the piano. I accepted 
the invitation gladly. 

Afterwards the bill for the theatre was brought, and I 
saw that the " Schachmaschine " (Chess-machine) was to 
be played. I knew nothing of this piece ; but my landlady 
was so lavish in its praise, that I was seized with a great 
desire to see it. Besides, I had not been in my best mood 
all day, and the feeling grew upon me that I was more fit 
for a merry comedy than for such good society. 

In the evening, an hour before the theatre opened, I 
went to Goethe. All was already in movement throughout 
the house. As I passed I heard them tuning the piano, 
in the great room, as prepai'ation for the musical enter- 
tainment. 

I found Goethe alone in bis chamber ; he was already 
dressed, and I seemed to him to have arrived at the right 
moment. "You shall stay with me here," he said, "and 
we will entertain one another till the arrival of the others." 
I thought, " Now I shall not be able to get away : stop, I 
must ; and, though it is very pleasant to be with Goethe 
alone, yet, when a quantity of strange gentlemen and ladies 
come, I shall feel quite out of my element." 

I walked up and down the room with Goethe. Soon the 
theatre became the subject of our discourse, and I had an 
opportunity of repeating that it was to me a source of new 
delight, especially as I had seen scarce anything in early 
years, and now almost every piece made quite a fresh 
impression upon me. " Indeed," added I, " I feel so much 
about it, that I have had a severe contest with myself, not- 
withstanding the great attractions of your evening party." 

"Well," said Goethe, stopping short, and looking at me 
with kindness and dignity, " go then ; do not constrain 
yourself ; if the lively play this evening suits you best, is 
more suitable to your mood, go there. You have music 



28 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOEIHti. 



here, and that you will often have again." " Then," said I, 
" I will go ; it will, perhaps, do me good to laugh." " Stay 
with ine, however," said Goethe, "till six o'clock: we shall 
have time to say a word or two." 

Stadelman brought in two wax lights, which he set on 
the table. Goethe desired me to sit down, and he would 
give me something to read. And what should this be but 
his newest, dearest poem, his " Elegy from Marienbad ! " 

I must here go back a little for a circumstance connected 
with this poem. Immediately after Goethe's return from 
Marienbad, the report had been spread that he had there 
made the acquaintance of a young lady equally charming 
in mind and person, and had been inspired with a passion 
for her. When her voice was heard in the Brunnen-Allee, 
he had always seized his hat, and hastened down to join 
her. He had missed no opportunity of being in her society, 
and had passed happy days: the parting had been very 
painful, and he had, in this excited state, written a most 
beautiful poem, which, however, he looked upon as a sort 
of consecrated thing, and kept hid from every eye. 

1 believed this story, because it not only perfectly 
accorded with his bodily vigour, but also with the pro- 
ductive force of his mind, and the healthy freshness of his 
heart. I had long had a great desire to see the poem itself, 
but naturally felt unwilling to ask Goethe. I had, there- 
fore, to congratulate myself on the fortunate moment 
which brought it before me. 

He had, with his own hand, written these verses, in 
Roman characters, on fine vellum paper, and fastened them 
with a silken cord into a red morocco case ; so that, from 
the outside, it was obvious that he prized this manuscript 
above all the rest. 

I read it with great delight, and found that every line 
confirmed the common report. The first verse, however, 
intimated that the acquaintance was not first made, but 
only renewed, at this time. The poem revolved constantly 
on its own axis, and seemed always to return to the point 
whence it began. The close, wonderfully broken off, made 
quite a deep and singular impression. 

"When I had finished, Goethe came to me again. "Well," 
said he, " there I have shown you something good. But 



i8z 3 .] 



CONVEKSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



29 



you shall tell me what you think a few days hence." I 
was very glad that Goethe, by these words, excused me 
from passing a judgment at the moment ; for the impres- 
sion was too new, and too hastily received, to allow me to 
say anything that was appropriate. 

Goethe promised to let me see it again in some tranquil 
hour. The time for the theatre had now arrived, and we 
separated with an affectionate pressure of the hand. 

The " Chess-machine " was, perhaps, a good piece, well- 
acted, but I saw it not — my thoughts were with Goethe. 
When the play was over, I passed by his house : it was all 
lighted up ; I heard music from within, and regretted that 
I had not stayed there. 

The next day, I was told that the young Polish lady, 
Madame Szymanows"ka, in whose honour the party had 
been given, had played on the piano in most excellent style 
to the enchantment of the whole company. I learned, also, 
that Goethe became acquainted with her last summer at 
Marienbad, and that she had now come to visit him. 

At noon, Goethe sent me a little manuscript, " Studies by 
Zauper," in which I found some very apt remarks. I sent 
him some poems I had written this summer at Jena, and of 
which I had spoken to him. 

Wed., Oct. 29. — This evening I went to Goethe just as they 
were lighting the candles. I found him in a very animated 
state of mind : his eyes sparkled with the reflection of the 
candlelight ; his whole expression was one of cheerfulness, 
youth, and power. 

As he walked up and down with me he began immediately 
to speak of the poems which I sent him yesterday. 

" I understand now," said he, " why you talked to me at 
Jena, of writing a poem on the seasons. I now advise you 
to do so ; begin at once with Winter. You seem to have a 
special sense and feeling for natural objects. 

"Only two words would I say about your poems. 
You stand now at that point where you must necessarily 
break through to the really high and difficult part of artr— 
the apprehension of what is individual. You must do some 
degree of violence to yourself to get out of the Idea. You 
have talent, and have got so far ; now you must do this. 



SO CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1823. 

You have lately been at Tief urt ; that might now afford a 
subject for the attempt. You may perhaps go to Tiefurt 
and look at it three or four times before you win from it the 
characteristic side, and bring all your means (motive*) 
together ; but spare not your toil ; study it throughout, and 
then represent it ; the subject is well worth this trouble. I 
should have used it long ago, but I could not ; for I have 
lived through those important circumstances, and my being 
is so interwoven with them, that details press upon me 
with too great fulness. But you come as a stranger ; you 
let the Castellan tell you the past, and you will see only 
what is present, prominent, and significant." 

I promised to try, but could not deny that this subject 
seemed to me veiy far out of my way, and very difficult. 

"I know well," said he, "that it is difficult; but the 
apprehension and representation of the individual is the 
very life of art. Besides, while you content yourself with 
generalities, every one can imitate you; but, in the par- 
ticular, no one can — and why ? because no others have ex- 
perienced exactly the same thing. 

" And you need not fear lest what is peculiar should not 
meet with sympathy. Each character, however peculiar it 
may be, and each object which you can represent, from the 
stone up to man, has generality ; for there is repetition every- 
where, and there is nothing to be found only once in the world. 

" At this step of representing what is individual," con- 
tinued Goethe, "begins, at the same time, what we call 
composition." 

This was not at once clear to me, though I refrained 
from questions. " Perhaps," thought I, " he means the 
blending of the Ideal with the Real, — the union of that 
which is external with that which is innate. But perhaps 
he means something else." Groethe continued : 

" And be sure you put to each poem the date at which 
you wrote it." I looked at him inquiringly, to know why 
this was so important. "Your poems will thus serve," he 
said, " as a diary of your progress. I have done it for many 
years, and can see its use." 

* The word "motive," which is of frequent occurrence in critical 
disquisition, is exactly defined in Heyse's " Fremdworterbach," a 
means in art calculated to produce an effect. — Trans. 



.8 23 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



31 



It was now time for the theatre. " So you are going to 
Finland ? " called he, jestingly, after me ; for the piece 
was "Johann von Finland" (John of Finland), by Fran 
von Weissenthurn. 

The piece did not lack effective sitnations, but it was so 
overloaded with pathos, and the design was so obvious in 
every part, that, on the whole, it did not impress me favour- 
ably. The last act, however, pleased me much, and recon- 
ciled me to the rest. 

This piece suggested to me the following remark : 
Characters which have been but indifferently drawn by the 
poet gain on the stage, because the actors, as living men, 
make them living beings, and impart to them some sort of 
individuality. But the finely drawn characters of the great 
poet, which already stand out with a sharply marked indi- 
viduality, must lose on the stage, because actors are not often 
perfectly fitted for such parts, and very few can completely 
lay aside their own individualities. If the actor be not the 
counterpart of the character, or if he do not possess the 
power of utterly laying aside his own personality, a mixture 
ensues, and the character loses its purity. Therefore, the 
play of a really great poet only appears in single figures, 
just as it was originally intended. 

Mon., Nov. 3. — I went to Goethe at five o'clock. I heard 
them, as I came upstairs, laughing very loud, and talking 
in the great room. The servant said that the Polish lady 
dined there to-day, and that the company had not yet left 
the table. I was going away, but he said he had orders to 
announce me, and that perhaps his master would be glad of 
my arrival, as it was now late. I let him have his way, and 
waited a while, after which Goethe came out in a very 
cheerful mood, and took me to the opposite room. My visit 
seemed to please him. He had a bottle of wine brought at 
once, and filled for me and occasionally for himself. 

" Before I forget it," said he, looking about the table for 
something, "let me give you a concert- ticket. Madame 
Szymanowska gives, to-morrow evening, a public concert 
at the Stadthaus, and you must not fail to be there." I 
replied that I certainly should not repeat my late folly. 
"They say she plays very well," I added. "Admirably," 
said Goethe. " As well as Hummel ? " asked I. " You 



32 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[l32 3 . 



must remember," said Goethe, "that she is not only a great 
performer, but a "beautiful woman ; and this lends a charm 
to all she does. Her execution is masterly, — astonishing, 
indeed." " And has she also great power ? " said I, "Yes," 
said he, " great power ; and that is what is most remarkable 
in her, because we do not often find it in ladies." I said 
that I was delighted with the prospect of hearing her at 
last. 

Secretary Krauter came in to consult about the library. 
Goethe, when he left us, praised his talent and integrity in 
business. 

I then turned the conversation to the " Journey through 
Frankfort and Stuttgard into Switzerland, in 1797," the 
manuscript of which he had lately given me, and which I 
had already diligently studied. I spoke of his and Meyer's 
reflections on the subjects of plastic art. 

" Ay," said Goethe, " what can be more important than 
the subject, and what is all the science of art without it ? 
All talent is wasted if the subject is unsuitable. It is 
because modern artists have no worthy subjects, that people 
are so hampered in all the art of modern times. From this 
cause we all suffer. I myself have not been able to 
renounce my modernness. 

" Yery few artists," he continued, "are clear on this point, 
or know what will really be satisfactory. For instance, 
they paint my ' Fisherman ' as the subject of a picture, and 
do not think that it cannot be painted. In this ballad, 
nothing is expressed but the charm in water which tempts 
us to bathe in summer ; there is nothing else in it : and 
how can that be painted ? " 

I mentioned how pleased I was to see how, in that journey, 
he had taken an interest in everything, and apprehended 
everything ; shape and situation of mountains, with their 
species of stones ; soil, rivers, clouds, air, wind, and weather ; 
then cities, with their origin and growth, architecture, 
painting, theatres, municipal regulations and police, trade, 
economy, laying out of streets, varieties of human race, 
manner of living, peculiarities ; then again, politics, martial 
affairs, and a hundred things beside. 

He answered, " But you find no word upon music, 
because that was not within my sphere. Each traveller 



1823.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



33 



should know what lie has to see, and what properly belongs 
to him, on a journey." 

The Chancellor came in. He talked a little with Goethe, 
and then spoke to me very kindly, and with much acnteness, 
about a' little paper which he had lately read. He soon 
returned to the ladies, among whom I heard the sound of 
a, piano. 

When he had left us, Gcethe spoke highly of him, and 
said, " All these excellent men, with whom you are now 
placed in so pleasant a relation, make what I call a home, 
to which one is always willing to return." 

I said that I already began to perceive the beneficial effect 
of my present situation, and that I found myself gradually 
leaving my ideal and theoretic tendencies, and more and 
more able to appreciate the value of the present moment. 

"It would be a pity," said Goethe, "if it were not 
so. Only persist in this, and hold fast by the present. 
Every situation — nay, every moment — is of infinite worth ; 
for it is the representative of a whole eternity." 

After a short pause, I turned the conversation to 
Tiefurt, and the mode of treating it. " The subject," said 
I, " is complex, and it will be difficult to give it proper form. 
It would be most convenient to me to treat it in prose." 

"For that," said Goethe, "the subject is not sufficiently 
significant. The so-called didactic, descriptive form would, 
on the whole, be eligible ; but even that is not perfectly 
appropriate. The best method will be to treat the subject 
in ten or twelve separate little poems, in rhyme, but in 
various measures and forms, such as the various sides and 
views demand, by which means light will be given to the 
whole." This advice I at once adopted as judicious. 
" Why, indeed," continued he, "should you not for once 
use dramatic means, and write a conversation or so with 
the gardener? By this fragmentary method you make 
your task easy, and can better bring out the various 
characteristic sides of the subject. A great, comprehensive 
whole, on the other hand, is always difficult ; and he who 
attempts it seldom produces anything complete." 

Wed., Nov. 10. — Goethe has not been very well for the 
last few days ; it seems he cannot get rid of a very bad cold. 
He coughs a great deal, very loud, and with much force ; 

D 



34 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l82 3 . 



"but, never theless, the cough seems to be painful, for he 
generally has his hand on his left side. 

I passed half an hour with him this evening before 
the theatre. He sat in an arm-chair, with his back 
sunk in a cushion, and seemed to speak with difficulty. 
After we had talked a little, he wished me to read a poem 
with which he intended to open a new number of " Kunst und 
Alterthum." He remained sitting, and showed me where 
it was kept. I took the light, and sat down at his writing- 
table to read it, at a little distance from him. 

This poem was singular in its character, and, though I 
did not fully understand it on the first reading, it affected 
me in a peculiar manner. The glorification of the 
Paria was its subject, and it was treated as a Trilogy. The 
prevailing tone seemed to me that of another world, and 
the mode of representation such, that I found it very difficult 
to form a lively notion of the subject. The personal 
presence of Goethe was also unfavourable to thorough 
abstraction : now I heard him cough ; now I heard him 
sigh ; and thus I was, as it were, divided in two — one half 
read, and the other felt his presence. I was forced to read 
the poem again and again, only to approximate to it. 
However, the more I penetrated into it, the more significant 
in character, and the higher in art, did it seem to be. 

At last I spoke to Goethe, both as to the subject and 
treatment, and he gave me much new light by some of his 
remarks. 

"Indeed," said he, "the treatment is very terse, and one 
must go deep into it to seize upon its meaning. It seems, 
even to me, like a Damascene blade hammered out of steel 
wire. I have borne this subject about with me for forty 
years ; so that it has had time to get clear of everything 
extraneous." 

"It will produce an effect," said I, "when it comes 
before the public." 

"Ah, the public ! " sighed Goethe. 

"Would it not be well," said I, "to aid the comprehen- 
sion, and to add an explanation as we do to pictures, when 
we endeavour to give life to what is actually present, by 
describing the preceding c'rcumstances ? " 

"I think not," said he; "with pictures it is another 



I82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



35 



matter ; but, as a poem is already expressed in words, one 
word only cancels another." 

I thought Goethe was here very happy in pointing out 
the rock on which those who interpret poems are commonly 
wrecked. Still it may be questioned whether it be not 
possible to avoid this rock, and affix some explanatory 
words to a poem without at all injuring the delicacy of its 
inner life. 

When I went away, he asked me to take the sheets of 
" Kunst und Alterthum " home with me, that I might read 
the poem again, and also the "Hoses from the East" 
(Oestliche Rosen) of Riickert, a poet whom he seems highly 
to value, and to regard with great expectation. 

(Sup.*) Tues., Nov. 11. — No evening company at 
Goethe's, who has again been suffering for some time. 
His feet were wrapped in a woollen coverlet, which he had 
taken with him everywhere since the campaign in Cham- 
pagne. Apropos of this coverlet, he related an anecdote 
of the year 1806, when the French had occupied Jena, and 
the chaplain of a French regiment required some hangings 
to adorn his altar. " He was supplied with a splendid piece 
of crimson stuff," said Goethe ; " but this was not good 
enough for him. He complained of this to me. ' Send 
me the stuff,' said I ; ' I will see if I can procure something 
better.' In the mean time, we were just bringing out a 
new piece at the theatre, and I made use of the magnificent 
red stuff to decorate my actors. As for my chaplain, he 
received nothing else ; he was forgotten ; and he must have 
seen what good he got." 

Wed., Nov. 12. — Towards evening, I went to see Goethe ; 
but heard, before I went upstairs, that the Prussian 
minister, von Humboldt, was with him, at which I was 
pleased, being convinced that this visit of an old friend 
would cheer him up and do him good. 

I then went to the theatre, where " Die Schwestern von 
Prag" (the Sisters of Prague), got up to perfection, was 
done admirably, so that it was impossible to leave off laugh- 
ing throughout the whole piece. 

Thurs., Nov. 13. — Some days ago, as I was walking one 
fine afternoon towards Erfurt, I was joined by an elderly 
man, whom I supposed, from his appearance, to be an 

D 2 



CONVEKSATIO.N'S 01 GOETHE. 



[18 23 . 



opulent citizen. We had not talked together Ion 7, before 
the conversation turned upon Goethe. I asked him 
whether he knew Goethe. " Know him ? " said he, 
with some delight ; " I was his valet almost twenty 
years ! " He then launched into the praises of his former 
master. I begged to hear something of Goethe's youth, 
and he gladly consented to gratify me. 

" When I first lived with him," said he, " he might have 
been about twenty-seven years old ; he was thin, nimble, 
and elegant in his person. I could easily have carried him 
in my arms." 

I asked whether Goethe, in that early part of his life 
here, had not been very gay. " Certainly," replied he ; 
" he was always gay with the gay, but never when they 
passed a certain limit ; in that case he usually became 
grave. Always working and seeking ; his mind always 
bent on art and science ; that was generally the way with 
my master. The duke often visited him in the evening, 
and then they often talked on learned topics till late at 
night, so that I got extremely tired, and wondered when 
the duke would go. Even then he was interested in natural 
science. 

" One time he rang in the middle of the night, and when 
F entered his room I found he had rolled his iron bed to the 
window, and was lying there, looking out upon the heavens. 
" Have you seen nothing in the sky ? ' asked he ; and when 
I answered in the negative, he bade me run to the guard- 
house, and ask the man on duty if he had seen nothing. 
I. went there; the guard said he had seen nothing, and I 
returned with this answer to my master, who was still in 
the same position, lying in his bed, and gazing upon the 
sky. ' Listen,' said he to me ; ' this is an important 
moment ; there is now an earthquake, or one is just going 
to take place ; ' then he made me sit down on the bed, and 
showed me by what signs he knew this." 

I asked the good old man "what sort of weather it 
was." 

" It was very cloudy," he replied ; " no air stirring ; very 
still and sultry." 

I asked if he at once believed there was an earthquake 
oil Goethe's word. 



1823.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



37 



"Yes," said he, "I believed it, for tilings always 
happened as he said they would. Next day he related 
his observations at court, when a lady whispered to her 
neighbour, ' Only listen, Goethe is dreaming.' But the 
duke, and all the men present, believed Goethe, and the 
correctness of his observations was soon confirmed ; for, in 
a few weeks, the news came that a part of Messina, on that 
night, had been destroyed by an earthquake." 

Fri., Nov. 14 — Towards evening Goethe sent me an in- 
vitation to call upon him. Humboldt, he said, was at 
court, and therefore I should be all the more welcome. I 
found him, as I did some days ago, sitting in his arm-chair ; 
he gave me a friendly shake of the hand, and spoke to me 
with heavenly mildness. The chancellor soon joined us. 
We sat near Goethe, and carried on a light conversation, 
that he might only have to listen. The physician, Coun- 
sellor (Hofrath) Rehbein, soon came also. To use his own 
expression, he found Goethe's pulse quite lively and easy. 
At this we were highly pleased, and joked with Goethe on 
the subject. " If I could only get rid of the pain in my 
left side ! " he said. Rehbein prescribed a plaster there ; 
we talked on the good effect of such a remedy, and Goethe 
consented to it. Rehbein turned the conversation to 
Marienbad, and this appeared to awaken pleasant remi- 
niscences in Goethe. Arrangements were made to go there 
again, it was said that the great duke would join the party, 
and these prospects put Goethe in the most cheerful mood. 
They also talked about Madame Szymanowska, and men- 
tioned the time when she was here, and all the men were 
solicitous for her favour. 

When Rehbein was gone, the chancellor read the Indian 
poems, and Goethe, in the mean while, talked to me about 
the Marienbad Elegy. 

At eight o'clock, the chancellor went, and I was going 
too, but Goethe bade me stop a little, and I sat down. 
The conversation turned on the stage, and the fact that 
" Wallenstein " was to be done to-morrow. This gave 
occasion to talk about Schiller. 

" I have," said I, " a peculiar feeling towards Schiller. 
Some scenes of his great dramas I read with genuine love 
and admiration ; but presently I meet with something 



38 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



which violates the truth of nature, and I can go no further. 
I feel this even in reading 'Wallenstein.' I cannot but 
think that Schiller's turn for philosophy injured his poetry, 
because this led him to consider the idea far higher than 
all nature; indeed, thus to annihilate nature. What he 
could conceive must happen, whether it were in conformity 
with nature or not." 

"It was sad," said Goethe, "to see how so highly gifted 
a man tormented himself with philosophical disquisitions 
which could in no way profit him. Humboldt has shown 
me letters which Schiller wrote to him in those unblest 
days of speculation. There we see how he plagued himself 
with the design of perfectly separating sentimental from 
naive poetry. For the former he could find no proper soil, 
and this brought him into unspeakable perplexity. As if," 
continued he, smiling, "sentimental poetry could exist at 
all without the naive ground in which, as it were, it has 
its root. 

"It was not Schiller's plan," continued Goethe, "to go 
to work with a certain unconciousness, and as it were 
instinctively ; he w*» i forced, or the contrary, to reflect on 
all he did. Hencf it was tha : he never could leave off 
talking about his poetical pro]ects, and thus he discussed 
with me all his late pieces, scene after scene. 

" On the other hand, it was contrary to my nature to 
talk over my poetic plans with anybody — even with Schiller. 
I carried everything about with me in silence, and usually 
nothing was known to any one till the whole was completed. 
When I showed Schiller my 'Hermann and Dorothea' 
finished, he was astonished, for I had said not a syllable to 
him of any such plan. 

"But I am curious to hear what you will say of ' Wal- 
lenstein ' to-morrow. You will see noble forms, and the 
piece will make an impression on you such as you probably 
do not dream of." 

Sat., Nov. 15. — In the evening I was in the theatre, 
where I for the first time saw "Wallenstein." Goethe had 
not said too much ; the impression was great, and stirred 
my inmost soul. The actors, who had almost all belonged 
to the time when they were under the personal influence 
of Schiller and Goethe, gave an ensemble of significant 



1823.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 39 

personages, such as on a mere reading were not presented 
to my imagination with all their individuality. On this 
account the piece had an extraordinary effect upon me, and 
I could not get it out of my head the whole night. 

Sun. y Nov. 16. — In the evening at Goethe's ; he was still 
sitting in his elbow-chair, and seemed rather weak. His 
first question was about " Wallenstein." I gave him an 
account of the impression the piece had made upon me as 
represented on the stage, and he heard me with visible 
satisfaction. 

M. Soret came in, led in by Frau von Goethe, and 
remained about an hour. He brought from the duke some 
gold medals, and by showing and talking about these 
seemed to entertain Goethe very pleasantly. 

Frau von Goethe and M. Soret went to court, and I was 
left alone with Goethe. 

Remembering his promise to show me again his Marien- 
bad Elegy at a fitting opportunity, Goethe arose, put a 
light on the table, and gave me the poem. I was delighted 
to have it once more before me. He quietly seated himself 
again, and left me to an undisturbed perusal of the piece. 

After I had been reading a while, I turned to say some- 
thing to him, but he seemed to be asleep. I therefore used 
the favourable moment, and read the poem again and again 
with a rare delight. The most youthful glow of love, 
tempered by the moral elevation of the mind, seemed to me 
its pervading characteristic. Then I thought that the 
feelings were more strongly expressed than we are accus- 
tomed to find in Goethe's other poems, and imputed this to 
the influence of Byron — which Goethe did not deny. 

"You see the product of a highly impassioned mood," 
said he. " While I was in it I would not for the world 
have been without it, and now I would not for any con- 
sideration fall into it again. 

" I wrote that poem immediately after leaving Marien- 
bad, while the feeling of all I had experienced there was 
fresh. At eight in the morning, when we stopped at the 
first stage, I wrote down the first strophe ; and thus I went 
on composing in the carriage, and writing down at every 
stage what I had just composed in my head, so that by the 
evening the whole was on paper. Thence it has a certain 



40 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



directness, and is, as I may say, poured out at once, which 
may be an advantage to it as a Avhole." 

"It is," said I, "quite peculiar in its kind, and recalls 
no other poem of yours." 

"That," said he, "may be, because I staked upon the 
present moment as a man stakes a considerable sum upon 
a card, and sought to enhance its value as much as I could 
without exaggeration." 

These words struck me as very important, inasmuch 
as they threw a light on Goethe's method so as to 
explain that many-sidedness which has excited so much 
admiration. 

It was now near nine o'clock ; Goethe bade me call 
Stadelmann, which I did. 

He then let Stadelmann put the prescribed plaster on his 
left side. I turned to the window, but heard him lamenting 
to Stadelmann that his illness was not lessening, but as- 
sumed a character of permanence. When the process was 
over, I sat down by him again for a little while. He now 
complained to me also that he had not slept for some nights, 
and had no appetite. " The winter," said he, "thus passes 
away ; I can put nothing together ; my mind has no 
force." I tried to soothe him, requesting him not to think 
so much of his labours at present, and representing that 
there was reason to hope he would soon be better. "Ah," 
said he, " I am not impatient ; I have lived through too 
many such situations not to have learned to suffer and to 
endure." He was in his white flannel gown, and a woollen 
coverlet was laid on his knees and feet. " I shall not go to 
bed," he said, " but will pass the night thus in my chair, for 
I cannot properly sleep." 

In the mean while the time for my departure was come, 
he extended his dear hand to me, and I left. 

When I went down into the servants' room, to fetch my 
cloak, I found Stadelmann much agitated. He said he 
was alarmed about his master, for if lie complained, it was 
a bad sign indeed ! His feet, too, which had lately been a 
little swollen, had suddenly become thin. He was going to 
the physician early in the morning, to tell him these bad 
signs. I endeavoured to pacify him, but he would not be 
talked out of his fears. 



■82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



41 



(Sup*) Sum,., Nov. 16. — Goethe is not any better. The 
grand- duchess sent him, this evening, by me, some very 
beautiful medals, the examination of which might perhaps 
divert and cheer him. Goethe was manifestly pleased at 
this delicate attention on the part of the duchess. He com- 
plained to me that he felt the same pain in the left side, 
which had preceded his severe illness last winter. " I 
cannot work," said he, " I cannot read, and even thinking 
only succeeds with me in my happy moments of alleviation." 

(Sup.*) Mon., Nov. 17. — Humboldt is here. I have 
spent a few moments with Goethe to-day ; when it appeared 
to me that Humboldt's presence and conversation had a 
favourable effect upon him. His disease does not appear to 
be merely of a physical kind. It seems more likely that the 
violent affection which he formed for a young lady, at 
Marienbad, in the summer, and which he is now trying to 
overcome, may be considered as the principal cause of his 
present illness. 

Mon., Nov. 17. — When I entered the theatre this evening, 
many persons pressed towards me, asking very anxiously 
how Goethe was. His illness must have spread rapidly 
over the town, and perhaps has been exaggerated. Some 
said he had water on the chest. I felt depressed all the 
evening. 

Wed., Nov. 10.— Yesterday, I walked about in a state of 
great anxiety. !No one besides his family was admitted to 
see him. 

In the evening I went to his house, and he received me. 

I found him still in his arm-chair ; his outward appear- 
ance was quite the same as when I left him on Sunday, but 
he was in good spirits. 

We talked of Zauper, and the widely differing results 
which proceed from the study of ancient literature. 

Fri., Nov. 21. — Goethe sent for me. To my great joy I 
found him walking up and down in his chamber. He gave 
me a little book, the " Ghazels " of Count Platen. " I had 
intended," said he, " to say something of this in 'Kunst und 
Alterthum,' for the poems deserve it : but my present con- 
dition will not allow me to do anything. Just see if you 
can fathom the poems and get anything out of them." 

I promised to make the attempt. 



42 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



"'Ghazels,'" continued he, "have this peculiarity, that 
they demand great fulness of meaning. The constantly 
recurring similar rhymes must find ready for them a store 
of similar thoughts. Therefore it is not every one that 
succeeds in them ; but these will please you." The physician 
came in, and I departed. 

Mon., Nov. 24. — Saturday and Sunday I studied the 
poems : this morning I wrote down my view of them, and 
sent it to Goethe ; for I had heard that no one had been 
admitted to him for some days, the physician having for- 
bidden him to talk. 

However, he sent for me this evening. When I entered, 
I found a chair already placed for me near him ; he gave me 
his hand, [and was extremely affectionate and kind. He 
began immediately to speak of my little critique. "I was 
much pleased with it," said he ; "you have a fine talent. 1 
wish now to tell you something," he continued ; "if literary 
proposals should be made to you from other quarters, refuse 
them, or at least consult me before deciding upon them ; for, 
since you are now linked with me, I should not like to see 
you connected with others also." 

I replied that I wished to belong to him alone, and had 
at present no reason to think of new connections. 

This pleased him, and he said that we should this winter 
get through much pleasant work together. 

We then talked of the " G-hazels." Goethe expressed his 
delight at the completeness of these poems, and that our pre- 
sent literature produced so much that was good. 

" I wish," said he, " to recommend the newest talent to 
your especial study and observation. I wish you to become 
acquainted with whatever our literature brings forth worthy 
of note, and to place before me whatever is meritorious, that 
we may discuss it in the numbers of ' Kunst und Alterthum,' 
and mention what is good, sound, and elevated, with due 
acknowledgment. For, with the best intentions, I cannot, 
at my advanced age, and with my manifold duties, do this 
without aid from others." 

I said I would do this, and was very glad to find that 
our latest writers and poets were more interesting to Goethe 
than I had supposed. 



i8z 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



He sent me the latest literary periodicals to assist in the 
proposed task. I did not go to him for several days, nor 
was I invited. I heard his friend Zelter had come to visit him. 

(Sup*) Fri., Nov. 28.— The first part of Meyer's 
" History of Art," which has just appeared, seems to 
occnpy Goethe very agreeably. He spoke of it to-day in 
terms of the highest praise. 

Mori., Bee. 1. — To-day, I was invited to dine with Goethe. 
I fonnd Zelter sitting with him when I arrived. Both 
advanced to meet me, and gave me their hands. " Here," said 
Goethe, " we have my friend Zelter. In him yon make a 
valuable acquaintance. I shall send you soon to Berlin ; he 
will take excellent care of you." " Is Berlin a good place ? " 
said I. " Yes," replied Zelter, laughing ; " a great deal may be 
learned and unlearned there." 

We sat down and talked on various subjects. I asked 
after Schubarth. "He visits me at least every week," said 
Zelter. "He is married now, but has no appointment, 
because he has offended the philologists in Berlin." 

Zelter asked me then if I knew Immermann. I said I 
had often heard his name, but as yet knew nothing of his 
writings. " I made his acquaintance at Minister," said 
Zelter ; " he is a very hopeful young man, and it is a pity 
that his appointment leaves him no more time for his art." 
Goethe also praised his talent. "But we must see," said 
he, " how he comes out ; whether he will submit to purify 
his taste, and, with respect to form, adopt the acknowledged 
best models as his standard. His original striving has its 
merit, but leads astray too easily." 

Little "Walter now came jumping in, asking many 
questions, both of Zelter and his grandfather. "When 
thou comest, uneasy spirit," said Goethe, " all conversation 
is spoiled." However, he loves the boy, and was unwearied 
in satisfying his wishes. 

Frau von Goethe and Fraulein Ulrica now came in, and 
with them, young Goethe, in his uniform and sword, ready 
for court. We sat down to table. Fraulein Ulrica and 
Zelter were very gay, and rallied each other in the 
pleasantest way during the whole of dinner. The person 
and presence of Zelter had an agreeable effect on me. As a 
healthy, happy man, he could give himself up wholly to the 



44 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [* 82 3 

influence of the moment, and always had the word fit for 
the occasion. Then he was very lively and kindly, and so 
perfectly unconstrained, that he could speak out whatever 
was in his mind, sometimes giving a hard hit. He 
imparted to others his own freedom of spirit, so that all 
narrowing views were soon dispelled by his presence. I 
silently thought how much I should like to live with him 
a while, and I am sure it would do me good. 

Zelter went away soon after dinner. He was invited to 
visit the grand-duchess that evening. 

Thurs., Dec. 4. — This morning, Secretaiy Krauter 
brought me an invitation to dine with Goethe ; at the same 
time, by Goethe's desire, giving me a hint to present Zelter 
with a copy of my " Beitrage zur Poesie." I took the copy 
to him at his hotel. Zelter, in return, put Immermann's 
poems into my hands. " I would willingly make you a 
present of this copy," said he, " but, you see, the author 
has dedicated it to me, and I must therefore keep it as a 
valuable memorial." 

Before dinner, I walked with Zelter through the park 
towards Upper Weimar. Many spots recalled to him 
former days, and he told me much of Schiller, Wieland, and 
Herder, with whom he had been on terms of great intimacy, 
which he considered had been one of the great benefits of 
his life. 

He then talked much of musical composition, and recited 
many of Goethe's songs. " If I am to compose music for a 
poem," said he, " I first try to penetrate into the meaning 
of the words, and to bring before me a living picture of the 
situation. I then read it aloud till I know it by heart, and 
thus, when I again recite it, the melody comes of its own 
accord." 

Wind and rain obliged us to return sooner than we 
wished. I accompanied him to Goethe's house, where he 
went up to Frau von Goethe to sing with her before dinner. 

About two, I returned there to dinner, and found Goethe 
and Zelter already engaged in looking at engravings of 
Italian scenery. Frau von Goethe came in, and we sat 
down to dinner. Fraulein Ulrica was absent to-day ; and 
so was young Goethe, who just came in to say Good-day, 
and then returned to court. 



I82 3 .] 



C0NVEESATI0NS OF GOETHE. 



45 



The conversation at table was especially varied. Many 
very original anecdotes were told both by Zelter and Goethe, 
all illustrating the peculiarities of their common friend, 
Friedrich August Wolf, of Berlin. There was a great deal of 
talk about the "Nibelungen," and then about Lord Byron and 
his hoped-for visit to Weimar, in which Frau von Goethe 
took especial interest. The Rochus festival at Bingen was 
also a very cheerful subject ; and Zelter particularly 
remembered two beautiful girls, whose amiability had made 
a deep impression upon him, and the memory of whom 
seemed still to exhilarate him. Goethe's social song, 
" Kriegsgliick " (Fortune of War), was then gaily talked 
over. Zelter was inexhaustible in his anecdotes of wounded 
soldiers and beautiful women, and they all tended to show 
the truthfulness of the poem. Goethe himself said that he 
had had no need to go so far for such realities ; he had seen 
them all at Weimar. Frau von Goethe maintained a lively 
opposition, saying that she would not admit women were 
so bad as that " nasty " poem represented them. 

Thus the time at table passed pleasantly enough. 

When, afterwards, I was alone with Goethe, he asked mo 
about Zelter. " Well," said he, " how do you like him ? " 
I described the good effect produced on me by his presence. 
"On a first acquaintance," said Goethe, "he may appear 
somewhat blunt, even rough ; but that is only external. I 
scarcely know any man who is really so tender as Zelter. 
Besides, we must not forget that he has passed more than 
half a century in Berlin, where, as I remark generally, 
there is such an audacious set of men, that one cannot get 
on well with delicacy, but must have one's eyes wide open, 
and be a little rough now and then, only to keep one's head 
above water." 

(Sup.*) Fri., Dec. 5. — I brought Goethe some minerals; 
amongst them was a piece of clayey ochre, found by Des- 
champs in Cormayan, which Herr Massot praises very 
highly. How astonished was Goethe, when he recognised, 
in this colour, the very same which Angelica Kauffmann 
used to employ for the fleshy parts of her pictures. " She 
valued the little that she possessed," said he, "at its weight 
in gold. However, the place whence it came, and where it 
is to be found, was unknown to her." Goethe said to his 



46 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



daughter-in-law that I treated him like a sultan, to whom 
new presents are brought every day. " Ke treats you much 
more like a child," said Frau von Goethe ; at which he 
could not help smiling. 

(Sup.*) Sun., Dec. 7. — I asked Goethe how he felt to- 
day. " Not quite so bad as Napoleon on his island," was 
the answer he returned, with a sigh. 

The long protraction of his indisposition seems gradually 
to produce an effect upon him. 

(Sup.*) Sun., Dec. 21. — Goethe's good humour was again 
brilliant to-day. We have reached the shortest day ; and 
the hope that, with each succeeding week, we shall see a 
considerable increase in the days, appears to have exerted a 
favourable effect on his spirits. " To-day we celebrate the 
regeneration of the sun ! 99 exclaimed he, joyfully, as I 
entered his room this morning. I hear that it is his custom, 
every year, to pass the weeks before the shortest day in a 
most melancholy frame of mind — to sigh them away, in fact. 

Frau von Goethe entered, to inform her papa-in-law that 
she was on the point of travelling to Berlin, in order to 
meet her mother, who was just returning. 

When Frau von Goethe was gone, Goethe joked with me 
on the lively imagination which characterizes youth. " I 
am too old," said he, " to contradict her, and to make her 
comprehend that the joy of seeing her mother again, for 
the first time, would be the same whether here or there. 
This winter journey is much trouble about nothing, but 
such a nothing is often of infinite importance in the minds 
of youth: and in the long run what difference does it 
make ! One must often undertake some folly only to be 
able to live on again a little. In my youth I did no better, 
and still I have escaped with a tolerably whole skin." 

(Sup.*) Tues., Dec. 30. — This evening was spent alone 
with Goethe in diversified conversation. He told me that 
he had some intention of including in his works his journey 
into Switzerland in the year 1797. The conversation then 
turned upon " Werther," which he had only read once, 
about ten years after its publication. The same had been 
the case with his other works. We then talked upon trans- 
lation, when he told me that he found it very difficult to 
render English poetry in German verse. " When we try to 



1823.] 



CONVEESATIONS OF GOETHE. 



47 



express a strong English monosyllable by German poly- 
syllables or compounds, all force and effect are lost at once." 
He said that he had made the translation of his " Hameau " 
in four weeks, dictating every word. 

We then talked about the natural sciences, especially 
about the narrow-mindedness with which learned men con- 
tend amongst themselves for priority. " There is nothing,'* 
said Goethe, "through which I have learned to know man- 
kind better, than through my philosophical exertions. It 
has cost me a great deal, and has been attended with great 
annoyance, but I nevertheless rejoice that I have gained the 
experience." 

I remarked, that in the sciences, the egotism of men 
appears to be excited in a peculiar manner ; and when this 
is once called into action, all infirmities of character very 
soon appear. 

" Scientific questions," answered Goethe, " are very often 
questions of existence. A single discovery may make a 
man renowned, and lay the foundation of his worldly pros- 
perity. It is for this reason that, in the sciences, there 
prevails this great severity, this pertinacity, and this 
jealousy concerning the discovery of another. In the 
sphere of aesthetics, everything is deemed more venial ; the 
thoughts are, more or less, an innate property of all man- 
kind, with respect to which the only point is the treatment 
and execution — and, naturally enough, little envy is excited. 
A single idea may give foundation for a hundred epigrams ; 
and the question is, merely, which poet has been able to 
embody this idea in the most effective and most beautiful 
manner. 

" But in science the treatment is nothing, and all the 
effect lies in the discovery. There is here little that is 
universal and subjective, for the isolated manifestations of 
the laws of nature lie without us — all sphynx-like, motion- 
less, firm, and dumb. Every new phenomenon that is ob- 
served is a discovery — every discovery a property. Now 
only let a single person meddle with property, and man will 
soon be at hand with all his passions." 

"However," continued Goethe, "in the sciences, that 
also is looked upon as property which has been handed 
down or taught at the universities. And if any one 



43 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1823. 



advances anything new which contradicts, perhaps threatens 
to overturn, the creed which we have for years repeated, 
and have handed down to others, all passions are raised 
against him, and every effort is made to crush him. People 
resist with all their might ; they act as if they neither heard 
nor could comprehend ; they speak of the new view with 
contempt, as if it were not worth the trouble of even so 
much as an investigation or a regard, and thus a new truth 
may wait a long time before it can make its way. A French- 
man said to a friend of mine, concerning my theory of 
colours, ' We have worked for fifty years to establish and 
strengthen the kingdom of Newton, and it will require fifty 
years more to overthrow it.' The body of mathematicians 
has endeavoured to make my name so suspected in science 
that people are afraid of even mentioning it. Some time 
ago, a pamphlet fell into my hands, in which subjects con- 
nected with the theory of colours were treated : the author 
appeared quite imbued with my theory, and had deduced 
everything from the same fundamental principles. I read 
the publication with great delight, but, to my no small sur- 
prise, found that the author did not once mention my name. 
The enigma was afterwards solved. A mutual friend called 
on me, and confessed to me that the clever young author 
had wished to establish his reputation by the pamphlet, 
and had justly feared to compromise himself with the 
learned world, if he ventured to support by my name the 
views he was expounding. The little pamphlet was suc- 
cessful, and the ingenious young author has since intro- 
duced himself to me personally, and made his excuses." 

" This circumstance appears to me the more remarkable," 
said I, " because in every thing else people have reason to 
be proud of you as an authority, and every one esteems 
himself fortunate who has the powerful protection of your 
public countenance. With respect to your theory of colours, 
the misfortune appears to be, that you have to deal not 
only with the renowned and universally acknowledged 
Newton, but also with his disciples, who are spread all over 
the world, who adhere to their master, and whose name is 
legion. Even supposing that you carry your point at last, 
you will certainly for a long space of time stand alone with 
your new theory." 



I82 3 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



49 



" I aui accustomed to it, and prepared for it," returned 
Goethe. "But say yourself," continued he, "have I not 
had sufficient reason to feel proud, when for twenty years I 
have been forced to own to myself that the great Newton, 
and all mathematicians and august calculators with him, 
have fallen into a decided error respecting the theory of 
colours ; and that I, amongst millions, am the only one 
who knows the truth on this important subject ? With 
this feeling of superiority, it was possible for me to bear 
with the stupid pretensions of my opponents. People 
endeavoured to attack me and my theory in every way, and 
to render my ideas ridiculous ; but, nevertheless, I rejoiced 
exceedingly over my completed work. All the attacks of 
my adversaries only serve to expose to me the weakness of 
mankind." 

While Goethe spoke thus, with such a force and a fluency 
of expression as I have not the power to reproduce with 
perfect truth, his eyes sparkled with unusual fire ; an ex- 
pression of triumph was observable in them ; whilst an 
ironical smile played upon his lips. The features of his 
fine countenance were more imposing than ever. 

(Sup.) Wed., Dec. 31. — Dined at Goethe's ; conversing 
on various subjects. He showed me a portfolio containing 
sketches ; amongst which the first attempts of Henry 
Fiissli * were especially remarkable. 

We then spoke upon religious subjects, and the abuse of 
the divine name. " People treat it," said Goethe, " as if 
that incomprehensible and most high Being, who is even 
beyond the reach of thought, were only their equal. Other- 
wise, they would not say the Lord God, the dear God,f the 
good God. This expression becomes to them, especially to 
the clergy, who have it daily in their mouths, a mere 
phrase, a barren name, to which no thought is attached 
whatever. If they were impressed by His greatness they 
would be dumb, and through veneration unwilling to name 
Him." 

* That is, Fuseli, as we call him. — Trans. 

t "The dear God" (der liebe Gott) is one of the commonest 
German expressions. — Trans. 



R 



SO 



CONVEBSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



1824. 

(Snp.) FrL, Jan. 2. — Dined at Goethe's, and enjoyed 
some cheerful conversation. Mention was made of a young 
beauty belonging to the Weimar society, when oue of the 
guests remarked that he was on the point of falling in love 
with her, although her understanding could not exactly be 
called brilliant. 

" Pshaw," said Goethe, laughing, "as if love had any- 
thing to do with the understanding. The things that we 
love in a young lady are something very different from the 
understanding. We love in her beauty, youthfulness, play- 
fulness, trustingness, her character, her faults, her caprices, 
and God knows what l je ne sais qiioV besides; but we do 
not love her understanding. We respect her understanding 
when it is brilliant, and by it the worth of a girl can be 
infinitely enhanced in our eyes. Understanding may also 
serve to fix our affections when we already love ; but the 
understanding is not that which is capable of firing our 
hearts, and awakening a passion." 

We found much that was true and convincing in Goethe's 
words, and were very willing to consider the subject in 
that light. After dinner, and when the rest of the party- 
had departed, I remained sitting with Goethe, and con- 
versed with him on various interesting topics. 

We discoursed upon English literature, on the greatness 
of Shakspeare ; and on the unfavourable position held by 
all English dramatic authors who had appeared after that 
poetical giant. 

"A dramatic talent of any importance," said Goethe, 
" could not forbear to notice Shakspeare's works, nay, could 
not forbear to study them. Having studied them, he must 
be aware that Shakspeare has already exhausted the whole 
of human nature in all its tendencies, in all its heights and 
depths, and that, in fact, there remains for him, the after- 
comer, nothing more to do. And how could one get 
courage only to put pen to paper, if one were conscious in 
an earnest appreciating spirit, that such unfathomable and 
unattainable excellences were already in existence ! 

" It fared better with me fifty years ago in my own dear 



182+.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



51 



Germany. I could soon come to an end with all that then 
existed ; it could not long awe me, or occupy my attention. 
I soon left behind me German literature, and the study of 
it, and turned my thoughts to life and to production. So 
on and on I went in my own natural development, and 
on and on I fashioned the productions of epoch after epoch. 
And at every step of life and development, my standard of 
excellence was not much higher than what at such step I 
was able to attain. But had I been born an Englishman, 
and had all those numerous masterpieces been brought 
before me in all their power, at my first dawn of youthful 
consciousness, they would have overpowered me, and I 
should not have known what to do. I could not have gone 
on with such fresh light-heartedness, but should have had 
to bethink myself, and look about for a long time, to find 
some new outlet." 

I turned the conversation back to Shakspeare. "When 
one, to some degree, disengages him from English literature," 
said I, " and considers him transformed into a German, one 
cannot fail to look upon his gigantic greatness as a miracle. 
But if one seeks him in his home, transplants oneself to the 
soil of his country, and to the atmosphere of the century in 
which he lived ; further, if one studies his contemporaries, 
and his immediate successors, and inhales the force wafted 
to us from Ben Jonson, Massinger, Marlow, and Beaumont 
and Fletcher, Shakspeare still, indeed, appears a being of 
the most exalted magnitude; but still, one arrives at the 
conviction that many of the wonders of his genius are, in 
some measure, accessible, and that much is due to the power- 
fully productive atmosphere of his age and time." 

" You are perfectly right," returned Goethe. " It is with 
Shakspeare as with the mountains of Switzerland. Trans- 
plant Mont Blanc at once into the large plain of Liineburg 
Heath, and we should find no words to express our wonder 
at its magnitude. Seek it, however, in its gigantic home, 
go to it over its immense neighbours, the Jungfrau, the 
Finsteraarhorn, the Eiger, the Wetterhorn, St. Gothard, 
and Monte Rosa; Mont Blanc will, indeed, still remain a 
giant, but it will no longer produce in us such amaze 
ment." 

"Besides, let him who will not believe," continued Goethe, 

e 2 



52 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



"tliat uracil o£ Shakspeare's greatness appertains to hi* 
great vigorous time, only ask himself the question, whether 
a phenomenon so astounding would be possible in the pre- 
sent England of 1824, in these evil days of criticising and 
hair-splitting journals ? 

"That undisturbed, innocent, somnambulatory production, 
by which, alone anything great can thrive, is no longer 
possible. Our talents at present lie before the public. The 
daily criticisms which appear in fifty different places, and 
the gossip that is caused by them amongst the public, pre- 
vent the appearance of any sound production. In the 
present day, he who does not keep aloof from all this, and 
isolate himself by main force, is lost. Through the bad, 
chiefly negative, sesthetical and critical tone of the journals, 
a sort of half culture finds its way into the masses ; but to 
productive talent it is a noxious mist, a dropping poison, 
which destroys the tree of creative power, from the orna- 
mental green leaves, to the deepest pith and the most hidden 
fibres. 

" And then how tame and weak has life itself become 
during the last two shabby centuries. "Where do we now 
meet an original nature ? and where is the man who has 
the strength to be true, and to show himself as he is ? This, 
however, affects the poet, who must find all within himself, 
while he is left in the lurch by all without." 

The conversation now turned on " Werther." " That," 
said Goethe, " is a creation which I, like the pelican, fed 
with the blood of my own heart. It contains so much from 
the innermost recesses of my breast — so much feeling and 
thought, that it might easily be spread into a novel of ten 
such, volumes. Besides, as I have often said, I have only 
read the book once since its appearance, and have taken 
good care not to read it again. It is a mass of congreve- 
rockets. I am uncomfortable when I look at it ; and I 
dread lest I should once more experience the peculiar 
mental state from which it was produced." 

I reminded him of his conversation with Napoleon, of 
which I knew by the sketch amongst his unpublished papers, 
which I had repeatedly urged him to give more in detail. 
"Napoleon," said I, "pointed out to you a passage in 
' Werther,' which, it appeared to him, would not stand a 



1824.] CONVEKSATIONS OF GOETHE. 53 

strict examination ; and this you allowed. I should inucli 
like to know what passage he meant." 

" Guess ! " said Goethe, with a mysterious smile. 

"Now," said I, "I almost think it is where Charlotte 
sends the pistols to Werther, without saying a word to 
Albert, and without imparting to him her misgivings and 
apprehensions. You have given yourself great trouble to 
find a motive for this silence, but it does not appear to hold 
good against the urgent necessity where the life of the friend 
was at stake." 

"Your remark," returned Goethe, "is really not bad; 
but I do not think it right to reveal whether Napoleon 
meant this passage or another. However, be that as it may, 
your observation is quite as correct as his." 

I asked the question, whether the great effect produced 
by the appearance of "Werther" was really to be attributed 
to the period. "I cannot," said I, "reconcile to myself 
this view, though it is so extensively spread. ' Werther ' 
made an epoch because it appeared — not because it appeared 
at a certain time. There is in every period so much unex- 
pressed sorrow — so much secret discontent and disgust for 
life, and, in single individuals, there are so many disagree- 
ments with the world — so many conflicts between their 
natures and civil regulations, that ' Werther ' would make 
an epoch even if it appeared to-day for the first time." 

"You are quite right," said Goethe; "it is on that 
account that the book to this day influences youth of a 
certain age, as it did formerly. It was scarcely necessary 
for me to deduce my own youthful dejection from the general 
influence of my time, and from the reading of a few English 
authors. Rather was it owing to individual and immediate 
circumstances which touched me to the quick, and gave me a 
great deal of trouble, and indeed brought me into that frame 
of mind which produced 1 Werther.' I had lived, loved, and 
suffered much — that was it. 

"On considering more closely the much-talked-of 'Werther' 
period, we discover that it does not belong to the course of 
universal culture, but to the career of life in every indi- 
vidual, who, with an innate free natural instinct, must accom- 
modate himself to the narrow limits of an antiquated world. 
Obstructed fortune, restrained activity, unfulfilled wishes, 



54 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



are not the r;alamities of any particular time, but those 
of every individual man ; and it would be bad, indeed, 
if every one had not, once in his life, known a time when 
' Werther ' seemed as if it had been written for him 
alone." 

(Sup.) Sun., Jan. 4. — To-day, after dinner, Goethe went 
through a portfolio, containing some works of Raphael, 
with me. He often busies himself with Raphael, in order to 
keep up a constant intercourse with that which is best, and 
to accustom himself to muse upon the thoughts of a great 
man. At the same time, it gives him pleasure to introduce 
me to such things. 

We afterwards spoke about the " Divan " * — especially 
about the " book of ill-humour," in which much is poured 
forth that he carried in his heart against his enemies. 

" I have, however," continued he, "been very moderate : 
if I had uttered all that vexed me or gave me trouble, the 
few pages would soon have swelled to a volume. 

" People were never thoroughly contented with me, but 
always wished me otherwise than it has pleased God to 
make me. They were also seldom contented with my pro- 
ductions. When I had long exerted my whole soul to 
favour the world with a new work, it still desired that I 
should thank it into the bargain for considering the work 
endurable. If any one praised me, 1 was not allowed, in 
self- congratulation, to receive it as a well-merited tribute ; 
but people expected from me some modest expression, 
humbly setting forth the total unworthiness of my person 
and my work. However, my nature opposed this ; and I 
should have been a miserable hypocrite, if I had so tried to 
lie and dissemble. Since I was strong enough to show 
myself in my whole truth, just as I felt, I was deemed 
proud, and am considered so to the present day. 

" In religious, scientific, and political matters, I generally 
brought trouble upon myself, because I was no hypocrite, 
and had the courage to express what I felt. 

" I believed in God and in Nature, and in the triumph of 
good over evil ; but this was not enough for pious souls : I 

* Goethe's " West-ostliche (west-eastern) Divan," one of the 
twelve divisions of which is entitled " Das Buch des Unmuths " (The 
Book of Ill-Humour). — Trans. 



1824O 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



55 



was also required to believe other points, wliich were 
opposed to the feeling of my soul for truth; besides, I 
did not see that these would be of the slightest service 
to me. 

" It was also prejudicial to me that I discovered Newton's 
theory of light and colour to be an error, and that I had 
the courage to contradict the universal creed. I discovered 
light in its purity and truth, and I considered it my duty 
to fight for it. The opposite party, however, did their 
utmost to darken the light ; for they maintained that shade 
is a part of light It sounds absurd when I express it ; but 
so it is : for they said that colours, which are shadow and 
the result of shade, are light itself or, which amounts to 
the same thing, are the beams of light, broken now in one 
way, now in another." 

Goethe was silent, whilst an ironical smile spread over 
his expressive countenance. He continued : — 

" And now for political matters. What trouble I have 
taken, and what I have suffered, on that account, I cannot 
tell you. Do you know my ' Aufgeregten ? ' * 

" Yesterday, for the first time," returned I, " I read the 
piece, in consequence of the new edition of your works ; 
and I regret from my heart that it remains unfinished. 
But, even as it is, every right-thinking person must coincide 
with your sentiments." 

" I wrote it at the time of the French Revolution," con- 
tinued Goethe, " and it may be regarded, in some measure, 
as my political confession of faith at that time. I have 
taken the countess as a type of the nobility ; and, with the 
words which I put into her mouth, I have expressed how 
the nobility really ought to think. The countess has just 
returned from Paris ; she has there been an eye-witness of 
the revolutionary events, and has drawn, therefore, for 
herself, no bad doctrine. She has convinced herself that 
the people may be ruled, but not oppressed, and that the 
revolutionary outbreaks of the lower classes are the conse- 
quence of the injustice of the higher classes. * I will for 
the future,' says she, ' strenuously avoid every action that 
appears to me unjust, and will, both in society and at court, 

* "Die Aufgeregten" (the Agitated, in a political sense) is an 
unfinished drama by Goethe. — Trans. 



56 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



loudly express my opinion concerning snch actions in others. 
In no case of injustice will I be silent, even though I should 
be cried down as a democrat.' 

"I should have thought this sentiment perfectly res- 
pectable," continued Goethe; "it was mine at that time, 
and it is so still ; but as a reward for it, I was endowed 
with all sorts of titles, which I do not care to repeat." 

"One need only read 'Egmont,'" answered I, "to dis- 
cover what you think. I know no German piece in 
which the freedom of the people is more advocated than 
in this." 

"Sometimes," said Goethe, "people do not like to look 
on me as I am, but turn their glances from everything 
which could show me in my true light. Schiller, on the 
contrary — who, between ourselves, was much more of 
an aristocrat than I am, but who considered what he said 
more than I — had the wonderful fortune to be looked upon 
as a particular friend of the people. I give it up to him 
with all my heart, and console myself with the thought 
that others before me have fared no better. 

"It is true that I could be no friend to the French 
Revolution ; for its horrors were too near me, and shocked 
me daily and hourly, whilst its beneficial results were not 
then to be discovered. Neither could I be indifferent to 
the fact that the Germans were endeavouring, artificially, 
to bring about such scenes here, as were, in France, the 
consequence of a great necessity. 

" But I was as little a friend to arbitrary rule. Indeed, 
I was perfectly convinced that a great revolution is never a 
fault of the people, but of the government. Revolutions 
are utterly impossible as long as governments are constantly 
just and constantly vigilant, so that they may anticipate 
them by improvements at the right time, and not hold 
out until they are forced to yield by the pressure from 
beneath. 

" Because I hated the Revolution, the name of the ' Friend 
of the poivers that be* was bestowed upon me. That is, 
however, a very ambiguous title, which I would beg to 
decline. If the ' powers that be ' were all that is excellent, 
good, and just, I should have no objection to the title ; but, 
since with much that is good there is also much that is bad, 



I82 4 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



b7 



unjust, and imperfect, a friend of the 'powers that be' 
means often little less than the friend of the obsolete and 
bad.* 

" But time is constantly progressing, and human affairs 
wear every fifty years a different aspect ; so that an arrange- 
ment which, in the year 1800, was perfection, may, perhaps, 
in the year 1850 be a defect. 

"And, furthermore, nothing is good for a nation but that 
which arises from its own core and its own general wants, 
without apish imitation of another ; since what to one race 
of people, of a certain age, is a wholesome nutriment, may 
perhaps prove a poison for another. All endeavours to 
introduce any foreign innovation, the necessity for which is 
not rooted in the core of the nation itself, are therefore 
foolish ; and all premeditated revolutions of the kind are 
unsuccessful, for they are without God, who keeps aloof from 
such bungling. If, however, there exists an actual necessity 
for a great reform amongst a people, God is with it, and it 
prospers. He was visibly with Christ and his first ad- 
herents; for the appearance of the new doctrine of love 
was a necessity to the people. He was also visibly with 
Luther ; for the purification of the doctrine corrupted by 
the priests was no less a necessity. Neither of the great 
powers whom I have named was, however, a friend of the 
permanent ; much more were both of them convinced that 
the old leaven must be got rid of, and that it would be 
impossible to go on and remain in the untrue, unjust, and 
defective way." 

Tues., Jan. 27. — Goethe talked with me about the con- 
tinuation of his memoirs, with which he is now busy. He 
observed that this later period of his life would not be 
narrated with such minuteness as the youthful epoch of 
" Dichtung und Wahrheit."t "I must," said he, "treat 
this later period more in the fashion of annals : my out- 
ward actions must appear rather than my inward life. 

* The German phrase " Freund des Bestehenden," which, for want 
of a better expression, has been rendered above " friend of the powers 
that be," literally means " friend of the permanent," and was used by 
the detractors of Goethe to denote the " enemy of the progressive." 
- — Trans. 

f " Poetry and Truth,'' the title of Goethe's autobiography. — Trans. 



53 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



Altogether, the most important part of an individual's life 
is that of development, and mine is conclnded in the 
detailed volumes of '*Dichtung nnd Wahrheit.' ; After- 
wards begins the conflict with the world, and that is 

interesting only in its results. 

" And then the life of a learned German — what is it ? 
What may have been really good in my case cannot be 
communicated, and what can be communicated is not worth 
the trouble. Besides, where are the hearers whom one 
could entertain with any satisfaction ? 

" When I look back to the earlier and middle periods of 
my life, and now in my old age think how few are left of 
those who were young with me. I always think of a summer 
residence at a bathing-place. When you arrive, you make 
acquaintance and friends of those who have already been 
there some rime, and who leave in a few weeks. The loss 
is painful. Then you turn to the second generation, with 
which you live a good while, and become most intimate. 
But this goes also, and leaves us alone with the third, which 
comes just as we are going away, and with which we have, 
properly, nothing to do. 

I have ever been esteemed one of Fortune's chief est 
favourites ; nor will I complain or find fault with the course 
my life has taken. Yet, truly, there has been nothing but 
toil and care ; and I may say that, in all my seventy-five 
years, I have never had a month of genuine comfort. It 
has been the perpetual rolling of a stone, which I have 
always had to raise anew. My annals will render clear 
what I now say. The claims upon my activity, both from 
within and without, were too numerous. 

My real happiness was my poetic meditation and pro- 
duction. But how was this disturbed, limited, and hindered 
by my external position ! Had I been able to abstain more 
from public business, and to live more in solitude, I should 
have been happier, and should have accomplished much 
more as a poet. But, soon after my ' Goetz ' and ' Wer- 
ther,' that saying of a sage was verified for me — * If you 
do anything for the sake of the world, it will take good 
care that you shall not do it a second time.' 

"A wide-spread celebrity, an elevated position in life, 
are good things. But. for all my rank and celebrity, I am 



1 824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



59 



still obliged to be silent as to the opinion of others, that I 
may not give offence. This would be but poor sport, if by 
this means I had not the advantage of learning the thoughts 
of others without their being able to learn mine." 
. Sun., Feb. 15. — Goethe invited me to take a walk before 
dinner to-day. I found him at breakfast when I entered 
the room : he seemed in excellent spirits. 

" I have had a pleasant visit," said he cheerfully. " A 
promising young Westphalian, named Meyer, has just been 
with me. He has written poems which warrant high ex- 
pectations. He is only eighteen, and has made incredible 
progress. 

"Iam glad," continued he, smiling, "that I am not 
eighteen now. When I was eighteen, Germany was in its 
teens also, and something could be done ; but now an 
incredible deal is demanded, and every avenue is barred. 

" Germany itself stands so high in every department, 
that we can scarcely survey all it has done ; and now we 
must be Greeks and Latins, and English and French into 
the bargain. Not content with this, some have the mad- 
ness of pointing to the East also ; and surely this is enough 
to confuse a young man's head ! 

" I have, by way of consolation, shown him my colossal 
Juno, as a token that he had best stick to the Greeks, and 
find consolation there. He is a fine young man, and, if he 
takes care not to dissipate his energies, something will be 
made of him. However, as I said before, I thank Heaven 
that I am not young in so thoroughly finished a time. I 
could not stay here. Nay, if I sought refuge in America, 
I should come too late, for there is now too much light 
even there." 

Sun., Feb. 22. — Dined with Goethe and his son. The 
latter related some pleasant stories of the time when he 
was a student at Heidelberg. He had often been with his 
friends on an excursion along the Rhine, in his vacations, 
and especially cherished the remembrance of a landlord, at 
whose house he and ten other students had once passed the 
night, and who provided them with wine gratis, merely 
that he might share the pleasures of a " Commerz." * 



* The academical word for a student's drinking party. — Trans. 



GO 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



After dinner, Goethe showed ns some coloured drawings 
of Italian scenery, especially that of Northern Italy, with the 
adjoining Swiss mountains, and the Lago Maggiore. The 
Borromean Isles were reflected in the water ; near the shore 
were skiffs and fishing-tackle, which led Goethe to remark 
that this was the lake in the " Wanderjahre." On the 
north-west, towards Monte Rosa, stood the hills bordering 
the lake in black-blue heavy masses, as we are wont to see 
them soon after sunset. 

I remarked that, to me, who had been bom in the plains, 
the gloomy sublimity of these masses produced an un- 
comfortable feeling, and that I, by no means, desired to 
explore such wild recesses. 

"That feeling is natural," said Goethe. "Really that 
state is alone suitable to man, in which, and for which, he 
was born. He who is not led abroad by great objects is 
far happier at home. Switzerland, at first, made so great 
an impression upon me, that it disturbed and confused me. 
Only after repeated visits — only in after years, when I 
visited those mountains merely as a mineralogist — could I 
feel at my ease among them." 

We looked, afterwards, at a long series of copper-plates, 
from pictures by modern artists, in one of the French 
galleries. The invention displayed in these pictures was 
almost uniformly weak, and among forty we barely found 
four or five good ones. These were a girl dictating a love- 
letter ; a woman in a house to let, which nobody will take ! 
" catching fish ; " and musicians before an image of the 
Madonna. A landscape, in Poussin's manner, was not bad ; 
on looking at this, Goethe said, " Such artists get a general 
idea of Poussin's landscapes, and work upon that. We 
cannot style their pictures good or bad : they are not bad, 
because, through every part, you catch glimpses of an 
excellent model. But you cannot call them good, because 
the artists usually want the great personal peculiarity of 
Poussin. It is just so among poets, and there are some who, 
for instance, would make a very poor figure in Shakespeare's 
grand style." 

We ended by examining, and talking over for a long 
while, Rauch's model of Goethe's statue, which is designed 
for Frankfort. 



I82 4 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



61 



Tues., Feb. 24 — I went to Goethe's at one o'clock to-day. 
He showed me some mannscripts, which he had dictated for 
the first number of the fifth volume of " Kunst und Alter- 
thum." I found that he had written an appendix to my 
critique of the German " Paria," in reference both to the 
French tragedy and to his own lyrical trilogy, by which 
this subject was, to a certain extent, completed. " You were 
quite right," said he, " to avail yourself of the occasion of 
your critique, to become acquainted with Indian matters, 
since, in the end, we retain from our studies only that 
which we practically apply." 

I agreed with him, and said that I had made this 
experience at the university, since, of all that was said in 
the lectures, I had only retained that, of which I could, 
through the tendency of my nature, make a practical 
application ; on the contrary, I had completely forgotten all 
that I had been unable to reduce to practice. " I have," 
said I, " heard Heeren's lectures on ancient and modern 
history, and know now nothing about the matter. But if I 
studied a period of history for the sake of treating it 
dramatically, what I learned would be safely secured to me 
for ever." 

" Altogether," said Goethe, " they teach in academies far 
too many things, and far too much that is useless. Then 
the individual professors extend their department too much 
— far beyond the wants of their hearers. In former days 
lectures were read in chemistry and botany as belonging to 
medicine, and the physician could manage them. Now, 
both these have become so extensive, that each of them re- 
quires a life ; yet acquaintance with both is expected from 
the physician. Nothing can come of this ; one thing must 
be neglected and forgotten for the sake of the other. He 
who is wise puts aside all claims which may dissipate his 
attention, confines himself to one branch, and excels in that." 

Goethe then showed me a short critique, which he had 
written on Byron's " Cain," and which I read with great 
interest. 

" We see," he said, " how the inadequate dogmas of tho 
church work upon a free mind like Byron's, and how by 
such a piece he struggles to get rid of a doctrine which has 
been forced upon him. The English clergy will not thank 



i)2 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



him ; but I snail be surprised if lie does not go on treating 
biblical subjects of similar import, and if be lets slip a 
subject like tbe destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah." 

After tbese literary observations, Goethe directed my 
attention to plastic art, by showing me an antique gem, of 
which he had already expressed his admiration the day 
before. I was enchanted to observe the naivete of the 
design. I saw a man who had taken a heavy vessel from 
his shoulder to give a boy drink. But the boy finds it is 
not bent down conveniently for him ; the drink will not 
flow ; and while he has laid both his little hands on the 
vessel, he looks up to the man, and seems to ask him to 
incline it a little more towards him. 

" Now, how do you like that ? " said Goethe. " We 
moderns," continued he, " feel well enough the beauty of 
such a perfectly natural, perfectly naive motive; we have the 
knowledge and the idea how such a thing is to be brought 
about, but we cannot do it; the understanding is always 
uppermost, and this enchanting grace is always wanting." 

We looked then at a medal by Brandt of Berlin, 
representing young Theseus taking the arms of his father 
from under the stone. The attitude had much that was 
commendable, but we found the limbs not sufficiently 
strained to lift such a burden. It seemed, too, a mistake 
for the youth to have the arms in one hand while he lifted 
the stone with the other ; for, according to the nature of 
things, he would first roll aside the heavy stone, and then 
take up the arms. "By way of contrast," said Goethe, " I 
will show you an antique gem, where the same subject is 
treated by an ancient." 

He bade Stadelmann bring a box containing several 
hundred copies of antique gems, which he had brought 
with him from Rome, on the occasion of his travels in Italy. 
I then saw the same subject, treated by an old Greek — and 
how different it was ! The youth was exerting his whole 
strength upon the stone, and was equal to the task, for the 
weight was already visibly overcome, and the stone was 
raised to that point, where it would very soon be cast on 
one side. All his bodily powers were directed by the young 
hero against the heavy mass ; only his looks were fixed on 
the arms which lay beneath. 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



63 



We were pleased with, tlie great natural truth of this 
treatment. 

" Meyer," said Goethe, laughing, " always says, 1 If 
thinking were not so hard.' And the worst is, that all the 
thinking in the world does not bring us to thought ; we must 
be right by nature, so that good thoughts may come before 
us like free children of God, and cry 1 Here we are.' " 

Wed., Feb. 25. — To-day, Goethe showed me two very 
remarkable poems, both highly moral in their tendency, but 
in their several motives so unreservedly natural and true, 
that they are of the kind which the world styles immoral. 
On this account, he keeps them to himself, and does not 
intend to publish them. 

" Could intellect and high cultivation," said he, "become 
the property of all, the poet would have fair play ; he could 
be always thoroughly true, and would not be compelled to 
fear uttering his best thoughts. But, as it is, he must 
always keep on a certain level ; must remember that his 
works will fall into the hands of a mixed society; and 
must, therefore, take care lest by over-great openness he 
may give offence to the majority of good men. Then, 
Time is a strange thing. It is a whimsical tyrant, which 
in every century has a different face for all that one says 
and does. We cannot, with propriety, say things which 
were permitted to the ancient Greeks ; and the Englishmen 
of 1820 cannot endure what suited the vigorous contem- 
poraries of Shakspeare ; so that at the present day, it is 
found necessary to have a Family Shakspeare." 

" Then," said I, " there is much in the form also. The 
one of these two poems, which is composed in the style and 
metre of the ancients, would be far less offensive than the 
other. Isolated parts would displease, but the treatment 
throws so much grandeur and dignity over the whole, that 
we seem to hear a strong ancient, and to be carried back to 
the age of the Greek heroes. But the other, being in the 
style and metre of Messer Ariosto, is far more hazardous. 
It relates an event of our day, in the language of our day, 
and as it thus comes quite unveiled into our presence, the 
particular features of boldness seem far more audacious." 

" You are right," said he ; " mysterious and great effects 
are produced by different poetical forms. If the import of 



64 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



my Romish elegies were put into the measure and style of 
Byron's ' Don Juan,' the whole would be found infamous." 

The French newspapers were brought. The campaign 
of the French in Spain under the Duke d'Angouleme, 
which was just ended, had great interest for Goethe. " I 
must praise the Bourbons for this measure," said he ; " they 
had not really gained the throne till they had gained the 
army, and that is now accomplished. The soldier returns 
with loyalty to his king ; for he has, from his own victories, 
and the discomfitures of the many-headed Spanish host, 
learned the difference between obeying one and many. The 
army has sustained its ancient fame, and shown that it is 
brave in itself, and can conquer without Napoleon." 

Goethe then turned his thoughts backward into history, 
and talked much of the Prussian army in the Seven Years' 
War, which, accustomed by Frederic the Great to constant 
victory, grew careless, so that, in after days, it lost many 
battles from over- confidence. All the minutest details were 
present to his mind, and I had reason to admire his ex- 
cellent memory. 

" I had the great advantage," said he, "of being born at 
a time when the greatest events which agitated the world 
occurred, and such have continued to occur during my long 
life ; so that I am a living witness of the Seven Years' War, 
of the separation of America from England, of the French 
Revolution, and of the whole Napoleon era, with the down- 
fall of that hero, and the events which followed. Thus I 
have attained results and insight impossible to those who 
are born now and must learn all these things from books 
which they will not understand. 

" What the next years will bring I cannot predict ; but 
I fear we shall not soon have repose. It is not given to 
the world to be contented ; the great are not such that 
there will be no abuse of power ; the masses not such that, 
in hope of gradual improvement, they will be contented 
with a moderate condition. Could we perfect human 
nature, we might also expect a perfect state of things ; but, 
as it is, there will always be a wavering hither and thither ; 
one part must suffer while the other is at ease, envy and 
egotism will be always at work like bad demons, and party 
strife will be without end. 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



65 



" The most reasonable way is for every one to follow his 
own vocation to which he has been born, and which he has 
learned, and to avoid hindering others from following theirs. 
Let the shoemaker abide by his last, the peasant by his 
plongh, and let the king know how to govern ; for this is 
also a business which must be learned, and with which no 
one should meddle who does not understand it." 

Returning tc the French papers, Goethe said, — "The 
liberals may speak, for when they are reasonable we like to 
hear them ; but with the royalists, who have the executive 
power in their hands, talking comes amiss — they should 
act. They may march troops, and behead and hang — that 
is all right ; but attacking opinions, and justifying their 
measures in public prints, does not become them. If there 
were a public of kings, they might talk. 

" For myself," he continued, " I have always been a 
royalist. I have let others babble, and have done as I saw 
fit. I understood my course, and knew my own object. If 
I committed a fault as a single individual, I could make it 
good again ; but if I committed it jointly with three or four 
others, it would be impossible to make it good, for among 
many there are many opinions." 

Goethe was in excellent spirits to-day. He showed me 
Frau von Spiegel's album, in which he had written some 
very beautiful verses. A place had been left open for him 
for two years, and he rejoiced at having been able to per- 
form at last an old promise. After I had read the " Poem 
to Frau von Spiegel," I turned over the leaves of the book, 
in which I found many distinguished names. On the very 
next page was a poem by Tiedge, written in the very spirit 
and style of his " Urania." " In a saucy mood," said 
Goethe, " I was on the point of writing some verses beneath 
those ; but I am glad I did not. It would not have been 
the first time that, by rash expressions, I had repelled good 
people, and spoiled the effect of my best works. 

" However," continued Goethe, " I have had to endure 
not a little from Tiedge's 1 Urania ; ' for, at one time, 
nothing was sung and nothing was declaimed but this same 
' Urania.' Wherever you went, you found ' Urania ' on the 
table. 4 Urania ' and immortality were the topics of every 
conversation. I would by no means dispense with the 

p 



06 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



happiness of believing in a future existence, and, indeed, 
would say, with Lorenzo de Medici, that those are dead 
even for this life who hope for no other. But such incom- 
prehensible matters lie too far off to be a theme of daily 
meditation and thought- distracting speculation. Let him 
who believes in immortality enjoy his happiness in silence, 
he has no reason to give himself airs about it. The occa- 
sion of Tiedge's ' Urania ' led me to observe that piety, 
like nobility, has its aristocracy. I met stupid women, who 
plumed themselves on believing, with Tiedge, in immor- 
tality, and I was forced to bear much dark examination on 
this point. They were vexed by my saying I should be 
well pleased if, after the close of this life, we were blessed 
with another, only I hoped I should hereafter meet none of 
those who had believed in it here. For how should I be 
tormented ! The pious would throng around me, and say, 
' Were we not right ? Did we not predict it ? Has not 
it happened just as we said ? ' And so there would be 
ennui without end even in the other world. 

"This occupation with the ideas of immortality," he 
continued, "is for people of rank, and especially ladies, 
who have nothing to do. But an able man, who has some- 
thing regular to do here, and must toil and struggle and 
produce day by day, leaves the future world to itself, and is 
active and useful in this. Thoughts about immortality are 
also good for those who have not been very successful here ; 
and I would wager that, if the good Tiedge had enjoyed a 
better lot, he would also have had better thoughts." 

Thurs., Feb. 26.— I dined with Goethe. After the cloth 
had been removed, he bade Stadelmann bring in some large 
portfolios of copper-plates. Some dust had collected on 
the covers, and, as no suitable cloths were at hand to 
wipe it away, Goethe was much displeased, and scolded 
Stadelmann. "I tell you for the last time," said he, 
"if you do not go this very day to buy the cloths for 
which I have asked so often, I will go myself to-morrow ; 
and you shall see that I will keep my word." Stadelmann 
went. 

"A similar case occurred to me with Becker, the actor," 
added Goethe to me, in a lively tone, " when he refused to 
take the part of a trooper in * Wallenstein.' I gave bin. 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



07 



warning that, if he would not play the part, I would play- 
it myself. That did the business ; for they knew me at the 
theatre well enough, and were aware that I did not under- 
stand jesting in such matters, and also that I was mad 
enough to keep my word in any case." 

" And would you really have played the part ? " asked I. 

" Yes," said Goethe, " I would have played it, and would 
have eclipsed Herr Becker, too, for I knew the part better 
than he did." 

We then opened the portfolios, and proceeded to the 
examination of the drawings and engravings. Goethe, in 
such matters, takes great pains on my account, and I see 
that it is his intention to give me a higher degree of pene- 
tration in the observation of works of art. He shows me 
only what is perfect in its kind, and endeavours to make 
me apprehend the intention and merit of the artist, that I 
may learn to pursue the thoughts of the best, and feel like 
the best. " This," said he, "is the way to cultivate what 
we call taste. Taste is only to be educated by contempla- 
tion, not of the tolerably good, but of the truly excellent. 
I, therefore, show you only the best works ; and when you 
are grounded in these, you will have a standard for the 
rest, which you will know how to value, without overrating 
them. And I show you the best in each class, that you 
may perceive that no class is to be despised, but that each 
gives delight when a man of genius attains its highest 
point. For instance, this piece, bj» a French artist, is galant, 
to a degree which you see nowhere else, and is therefore a 
model in its way." 

Goethe handed me the engraving, and I looked at it with 
delight. There was a beautiful room in a summer resi- 
dence, with open doors and windows looking into a garden, 
where one might see the most graceful figures. A hand- 
some lady, aged about thirty, was sitting with a music 
book, from which she seemed to have just sung. Sitting 
by her, a little further back, was a young girl of about 
fifteen. At the open window behind stood another young 
lady, holding a lute, which she seemed still to be sounding. 
At this moment a young gentleman was entering, to whom 
the eyes of the ladies were directed. He seemed to have 
interrupted the music ; and his slight bow gave the notion 

f 2 



68 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



that tie was making an apology, which the ladies were 
gratified to hear. 

" That, I think," said Goethe, " is as galant as any piece 
of Calderon's ; and yon have now seen the very best thing 
of this kind. Bnt what say yon to this ? " 

With these words he handed me some etchings by Roos, 
the famons painter of animals ; they were all of sheep, in 
every postnre and sitnation. The simplicity of their 
countenances, the ngliness and shagginess of the fleece — 
all was represented with the utmost fidelity, as if it were 
nature itself. 

" I always feel uneasy," said Goethe, "when I look at 
these beasts. Their state, so limited, dull, gaping, and 
dreaming, excites in me such sympathy, that I fear I shall 
become a sheep, and almost think the artist must have been 
one. At all events, it is most wonderful how Roos has been 
able to think and feel himself into the very soul of these 
creatures, so as to make the internal character peer with 
such force through the outward covering. Here you see 
what a great talent can do when it keeps steady to subjects 
which are congenial with its nature." 

"Has not, then," said I, "this artist also painted dogs, 
cats, and beasts of prey with similar truth ; nay, with this 
great gift of assuming a mental state foreign to himself, has 
he not been able to delineate human character with equal 
fidelity ? " 

"No," said Goethe, "all that lay out of his sphere; but 
the gentle, grass-eating animals, sheep, goats, cows, and the 
like, he was never weary of repeating ; this was the peculiar 
province of his talent, which he did not quit during the 
whole course of his life. And in this he did well. A sym- 
pathy with these animals was born with him, a knowledge 
of their psychological condition was given him, and thns he 
had so fine an eye for their bodily structure. Other creatures 
were perhaps not so transparent to him, and therefore he 
felt neither calling nor impulse to paint them." 

By .this remark of Goethe's, much that was analogous 
was revived within me, and was presented in all its liveliness 
to my mind. Thus he had said to me, not long before, 
that knowledge of the world is inborn with the genuine poet, 
and that he needs not much experience or varied observation 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



69 



to represent it adequately. " I wrote ' Goetz von Ber- 
lichingen,'" said he, "as a young man of two-and- twenty, 
and was astonished, ten years after, at the truth of my deli- 
neation. It is obvious that I had not experienced nor seen 
anything of the kind, and therefore I must have acquired 
the knowledge of various human conditions by way of 
anticipation. 

" Generally, I only took pleasure in painting my inward 
world before I became acquainted with the outer one. But 
when I found, in actual life, that the world was really just 
what I had fancied, it vexed me, and I no more felt delight 
in representing it. Indeed, I may say that if I had waited 
till I knew the world before I represented it, my represen- 
tation would have had the appearance of persiflage. 

" There is in every character," said he, another time, "a 
certain necessity, a sequence, which, together with this or 
that leading feature, causes secondary features. Observation 
teaches this sufficiently ; but with some persons this know- 
ledge may be innate. Whether with me experience and 
innate faculty are united, I will not inquire ; but this I 
know, if I have talked with any man a quarter of an hour, 
I will let him talk two hours." 

Goethe had likewise said of Lord Byron, that the world 
to him was transparent, and that he could paint by way of 
anticipation. I expressed some doubts whether Byron 
would succeed in painting, for instance, a subordinate 
animal nature, for his individuality seemed to me to be too 
powerful for him to give himself up, with any degree of pre- 
dilection, to such a subject. Goethe admitted this, and 
replied that the anticipation only went so far as the objects 
were analogous to the talent ; and we agreed, that in the 
same proportion as the anticipation is confined or extended, 
is the representing talent of greater or smaller compass. 

" If your excellency," said I, "maintains that the world 
is inborn with the poet, you of course mean only the interior 
world, not the empirical world of appearances aud conven- 
tions ; if the poet is to give a successful representation of 
this also, an investigation into the actual will surely be 
requisite." 

" Certainly," replied Goethe, "so it is ; the region of love, 
hate, hope, despair, or by whatever other names you may 



70 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



call the moods and passions of the soul, is innate with the 
poet, and he succeeds in representing it. But it is not born 
with him to know by instinct how courts are held, or how 
a parliament or a coronation is managed ; and if he will not 
offend against truth, while treating such subjects, he must 
have recourse to experience or tradition. Thus, in ' Faust/ 
I could, by anticipation, know how to describe my hero's 
gloomy weariness of life, and the emotions which love 
excites in the heart of Gretchen ; but the lines, 

Wie traurig steigt die v.nvolllcommne Scheibe 
Des spdten Monds rait feuchter Glut heran ! 

' How gloomy does the imperfect disc 
Of the late moon with humid glow arise ! ' 

required some observation of nature." 

" Yet," said I, " every line of ' Faust ' bears marks, not to 
be mistaken, of a careful study of life and the world ; nor 
does one for a moment suppose otherwise than that the 
whole is only the result of the amplest experience." 

"Perhaps so," replied Goethe ; "yet, had I not the world 
already in my soul through anticipation, I should have re- 
mained blind with seeing eyes, and all experience and obser- 
vation would have been dead, unproductive labour. The 
light is there, and the colours surround us ; but, if we had 
no i light and no colours in our own eyes, we should not 
perceive the outward phenomena." 

Sat., Feb. 28. — -"There are," said Goethe, "excellent 
men, who are unable to do anything impromptu, or super- 
ficially, but whose nature demands that they should quietly 
and deeply penetrate into every subject they may take in 
hand. Such minds often make us impatient, for we seldom 
get from them what we want at the moment ; but in this 
way alone the noblest tasks are accomplished." 

1 turned the conversation to Ramberg. "He," said 
Goethe, " is an artist of quite a different stamp, of a most 
genial talent, and indeed unequalled in his power of im- 
promptu. At Dresden, he once asked me to give him a 
subject. I gave him Agamemnon, at the moment when, on 
his return from Troy, he is descending from his chariot, and 
is seized with a gloomy feeling, on touching the threshold 
of his house. You will agree that this is a subject of a most 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



71 



difficult kind, and, with another artist, would have demanded 
the most mature deliberation. But the words had scarcely 
passed my lips, before Ramberg began to draw, and, indeed, 
I was struck with admiration, to see how correctly he at 
once apprehended his subject. I cannot deny that I should 
like to possess some drawings by Ramberg." 

We talked then of other artists, who set to work in a 
superficial way, and thus degenerated into mannerism. 

"Mannerism," said Goethe, "is always longing to have 
done, and has no true enjoyment in work. A genuine, really 
great talent, on the other hand, finds its greatest happiness 
in execution. Roos is unwearied in drawing the hair and 
wool of his goats and sheep, and you see by his infinite 
details that he enjoyed the purest felicity in doing his work, 
and had no wish to bring it to an end. 

" Inferior talents do not enjoy art for its own sake ; 
while at work they have nothing before their eyes but the 
profit they hope to make when they have done. With suclr 
worldly views and tendencies, nothing great was ever 
yet produced." 

Sun., Feb. 29. — At twelve o'clock, I went to Goethe, who 
had invited me to take a walk before dinner. I found him 
at breakfast when I entered, and taking my seat opposite 
to him, turned the conversation upon those productions 
which occupy us both on account of the new edition of his 
works. I counselled him to insert both his " Gods, Heroes, 
and Wieland," and his " Letters of a Pastor," in his new 
edition. 

" I cannot," said Goethe, " from my present point of 
view, properly judge the merit of those youthful productions. 
You younger people may decide, if you will. Yet I will 
not find fault -with those beginnings ; I was, indeed, then 
in the dark, and struggled on, unconscious of what I was 
seeking so earnestly 5 but I had a feeling of' the right, a 
divining rod, that showed me where gold was to be found." 

I observed that this must be the case with all great 
talents, since otherwise, on awaking in a mixed world, they 
would not seize upon the right and shun the wrong. 

The horses had, in the mean while, been put to, and we 
rode towards Jena. We conversed on different subjects, 
and Goethe mentioned the last French newspapers. " The 



72 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



constitution of France," said he, "belonging to a people who 
have within themselves so many elements of corruption, 
rests upon a very different basis from that of England. 
Everything may be done in France by bribery ; indeed the 
whole French revolution was directed by such means." 

He then spoke of the death of Eugene Napoleon (Duke 
of Leuchtenberg), the news of which had arrived that 
morning, and which seemed to grieve him much. " He was 
one of those great characters," said Goethe, "which are 
becoming more and more rare ; and the world is once more 
one important man the poorer. I knew him personally ; 
only last summer I was with him at Marienbad. He was a 
handsome man, about forty-two, though he looked older, 
which was not to be wondered at when we call to mind all 
he went through, and how, through all his life, one cam- 
paign and one great deed pressed constantly on another. 
He told me at Marienbad of a plan, on the execution of 
which he conversed with me much. This was the union of 
the Rhine with the Danube, by means of a canal — a gigantic 
enterprise, when you consider the obstacles offered by the 
locality. But to a man who has served under Napoleon, 
and with him shaken the world, nothing appears impossible. 
Charlemagne had the same plan, and even began the work, 
but it soon came to a standstill. The sand would not hold, 
the banks were always falling in on both sides." 

Mon., Mar. 22. — To'-day, before dinner, I went with Groethe 
into his garden. The situation of this garden, on the other 
side of the Ilm, near the park, and on the western declivity 
of a hill, gives it a very inviting aspect. It is protected 
from the north and east winds, but open to the cheering 
influences of the south and west, which makes it a most 
delightful abode, especially in spring and autumn. 

To the town, which lies north-west, one is so near that 
one can be there in a few minutes, and yet if one looks 
round, one does not anywhere see the top of a building, or 
even a spire, to remind one of such a proximity ; the tall 
and thickly-planted trees of the park shut out every other 
object on that side. Under the name of the " Star," they go to 
the left, towards the north, close to the carriage-way, which 
leads immediately from the garden. 

Towards the west and south-west, there is a free view over 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



73 



a spacious meadow, through which, at about the distance of 
a bow-shot, the Ilm winds silently along. On the opposite 
side of the river, the bank rises like a hill ; on the summit 
and sides of which spreads the broad park, with the mixed 
foliage of alders, ash-trees, poplars, aud birches, bounding 
the horizon at an agreeable distance on the south and west. 

This view of the park over the meadow gives a feeling, 
especially in summer, as if one were near a wood which 
extended leagues round about. One thinks that every 
moment there will be deer bounding out upon the meadows. 
One feels transplanted into the peace of the deepest 
natural solitude, for the silence is often uninterrupted, 
except by the solitary notes of the blackbird, or the 
frequently-suspended song of the wood-thrush. 

Out of this dream of profound solitude, we are, however, 
awakened by the striking of the tower-clock, the screaming 
of the peacocks from the park, or the drums and horns of 
the military from the barracks. And this is not unpleasant ; 
for such tones comfortably remind one of the neighbour- 
hood of the friendly city, from which one has fancied 
oneself distant so many miles. 

At certain seasons, these meadows are the reverse of 
lonely. One sees sometimes country people going to 
Weimar to market, or to work, and returning thence ; some- 
times loungers of all sorts walking along the windings of 
the Ilm, especially in the direction towards Upper Weimar, 
which is on certain days much visited. The hay-making 
season also animates the scene very agreeably. In the back- 
ground, one sees flocks of sheep grazing, and sometimes 
the stately Swiss cows of the neighbouring farm. 

To-day, however, there was no trace of these summer 
phenomena, which are so refreshing to the senses. On the 
meadows, some streaks of green were scarcely visible ; the 
trees of the park as yet could boast nothing but brown 
twigs and buds; yet the note of the finch, with the 
occasional song of the blackbird and thrush, announced the 
approach of spring. 

The air was pleasant and summerlike ; a very mild south- 
west wind was blowing. Small, isolated thunder- clouds 
passed along the clear sky ; high above might be observed 
the dispersing cirrus-streaks. We accurately observed the 



74 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



clouds, and saw that the massive clouds of the lower region 
were likewise dispersing ; from which Goethe inferred that 
the barometer must be rising. 

Goethe then spoke much about the rising and falling of 
the barometer, which he called the affirmative and negative 
of water. He spoke of the inhaling and exhaling processes 
of the earth, according to eternal laws ; of a possible deluge, 
if the "water-affirmative" continued. He said, besides, 
that, though each place has its proper atmosphere, there is 
great uniformity in the state of the barometer throughout 
Europe ; nature, he said, was incommensurable, and with 
her great irregularities, it was often difficult to find her laws. 

While he thus instructed me on such high subjects, we 
were walking up and down the broad gravel-walk of the 
garden. We came near the house, which he bade the 
servant to open, that he might show me the interior. 
Without, the whitewashed walls were covered with rose- 
bushes, which, trained on espaliers, reached to the roof. 
I went round the house, and saw with pleasure, on the 
branches of these rose-bushes, against the wall, a great 
number of birds' nests of various kinds, which had been 
there since the preceding summer, and, now that the bushes 
were bare of leaves, were exposed to the eye. There were 
especially to be observed the nests of the linnet and of 
various kinds of hedge-sparrows, built high or low accord- 
ing to the habits of the birds. 

Goethe then took me inside the house, which I had not 
seen since last summer. In the lower story, I found only 
one inhabitable room, on the walls of which were hung 
some charts and engravings, besides a portrait of Goethe, 
as large as life, painted by Meyer shortly after the return 
of both friends from Italy. Goethe here appears in the 
prime of his powers and his manhood, very brown, and 
rather stout. The expression of the countenance is not 
very animated, and is very serious ; one seems to behold a 
man on whose mind lies the weight of future deeds. 

We ascended the stairs to the upper-rooms. I found 
three, and one little cabinet ; but all very small, and not 
very convenient. Goethe said that, in former years, he had 
passed a great deal of his time here with pleasure, and had 
worked very quietly. 



1824.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 75 

These rooms were rather cool, and we returned into the 
open air, which was mild. As we walked up and down the 
chief pathway, in the noonday sun, our conversation 
turned on modern literature, Schelling, and some new plays 
by Count Platen. 

We soon returned to the natural objects. The crown- 
imperials and lilies were already far advanced ; the mallows 
on both sides of the park were already green. 

The upper part of the garden, on the declivity of the 
hill, is covered with grass, and here and there a few fruit- 
trees. Paths extend along the summit, and then return to 
the foot ; which awakened in me a wish to ascend and look 
about me. Goethe, as he ascended these paths, walked 
swiftly before me, and I was rejoiced to see how active 
he was. 

On the hedge above we found a pea-hen, which seemed 
to have come from the prince's park ; and Goethe remarked 
that, in summer time, he was accustomed to allure the 
peacocks, by giving them such food as they loved. 

Descending on the winding path on the other side ot 
the hill, I found a stone, surrounded by shrubs, on which 
was carved this line from the well-known poem — 

Hier im stillen gedachte der Liebende seiner Geliebten ; 
" Here in silence reflected the lover upon his beloved ; " 

and I felt as if I were on classic ground. 

Near this was a thicket of half-grown oaks, firs, birches, 
and beech- trees. Beneath the firs, I found the sign * of a 
bird of prey. I showed it to Goethe, who said he had often 
seen such in this place. From this I concluded that these 
firs were a favourite abode of some owls, which had been 
frequently seen in this place. 

Passing round this thicket, we found ourselves once 
more on the principal path near the house. The oaks, 
firs, birches, and beeches, which we had just gone round, 
being mingled together, here form a semicircle, overarching 
like a grotto the inner space, in which we sat down on 

* The word here rendered by the general expression " sign " is 
" Gewolle," a sporting term, which signifies the hair, feathers, or 
other indigestible matter swallowed by a bird of prey and afterwards 
vomited. — Trans. 



76 



3J0NYERSATI0NS OF GOETHE. 



[l82 4 . 



little cTmirs, placed about a round table. The sun was so 
powerful, that the shade even of these leafless trees was 
agreeable. " I know," said Goethe, " no better refuge, in 
the heats of summer, than this spot. I planted all the 
trees, forty years ago, with my own hand ; I have had the 
pleasure of watching their growth, and have now for a 
long time enjoyed their refreshing shade. The foliage of 
these oaks and beeches is impervious to the most potent 
sun. In hot summer days, I like to sit here after dinner ; 
and often over the meadows and the whole park such still- 
ness reigns, that the ancients would say, ' Pan sleeps.' " 

"We now heard the town-clock striking two, and returned 
to the house. 

Tues., Mar. 30. — This evening I was with Goethe. I 
was alone with him ; we talked on various subjects, and 
drank a bottle of wine. We spoke of the French drama, as 
contrasted with the German. 

" It will be very difficult," said Goethe, " for the German 
public to come to a kind of right judgment, as they do in 
Italy and France. We have a special obstacle in the 
circumstance, that on our stage a medley of all sorts of 
things is represented. On the same boards where we saw 
Hamlet yesterday, we see Staberle* to-day; and if to- 
morrow we are delighted with ' Zauberflote,' the day after 
we shall be charmed with the oddities of the next lucky 
wight. Hence the public becomes confused in its judgment, 
mingling together various species, which it never learns 
rightly to appreciate and to understand. Furthermore, 
every one has his own individual demands and personal 
wishes, and returns to the spot where he finds them realized. 
On the tree where he has plucked figs to-day, he would 
pluck them again to-morrow, and would make a long face 
if sloes had grown in their stead during the night. If any 
one is a friend to sloes, he goes to the thorns. 

" Schiller had the happy thought of building a house for 
tragedy alone, and of giving a piece every week for the 
male sex exclusively. But this notion presupposed a very 
large city, and could not be realized with our humble 
means." 



* A Viennese buffoon. — Trans. 



l82 4 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



77 



"We talked about the plays o£ Iffland and Kotzebue, 
wliich, in their way, Goethe highly commended. " From 
this very fault," said he, " that people do not perfectly 
distinguish between hinds in art, the pieces of these men 
are often unjustly censured. We may wait a long time 
before a couple of such popular talents come again." 

I praised Inland's "Hagestolz" (Old Bachelor), with 
which I had been highly pleased on the stage. " It is un- 
questionably Inland's best piece," said Goethe ; "it is the 
only one in which he goes from prose into the ideal." 

He then told me of a piece, which he and Schiller had 
made as a continuation to the " Hagestolz " ; that is to say, 
in conversation, without writing it down. Goethe told me 
the progress of the action, scene by scene ; it was very 
pleasant and cheerful, and gave me great delight. 

Goethe then spoke of some new plays by Platen. " In 
these pieces," said he, " we may see the influence of 
Calderon. They are very clever, and, in a certain sense, 
complete ; but they want specific gravity, a certain weight 
of import. They are not of a kind to excite in the mind 
of the reader a deep and abiding interest ; on the contrary, 
the strings of the soul are touched but lightly and tran- 
siently. They are like cork, wliich, when it swims on the 
water, makes no impression, but is easily sustained by the 
surface. 

" The German requires a certain earnestness, a certain 
grandeur of thought, and a certain fulness of sentiment. 
It is on this account that Schiller is so highly esteemed by 
them all. I do not in the least doubt the abilities of 
Platen; but those, probably from mistaken views of art, 
are not manifested here. He shows distinguished culture, 
intellect, pungent wit, and artistical completeness ; but 
these, especially in Germany, are not enough. 

" Generally, the personal character of the writer in- 
fluences the public rather than his talents as an artist. 
Napoleon said of Corneille, 1 S'il viv ait, je leferais prince;' 
yet he never read him. Racine he read, but did not say 
this of him. Lafontaine, too, is looked upon with a high 
degree of esteem by the French, not on account of his 
poetic merits, but of the greatness of character which he 
manifests in his writings." 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



We then talked of the " Elective Affinities " (Wahlver- 
wandtsehaften) ; and Goethe told me of a travelling 
Englishman, who meant to be separated from his wife 
when he returned to England. He laughed at such folly, 
and gave me several examples of persons who had been 
separated, and afterwards could not let each other alone. 

" The late Reinhard of Dresden," said he, " often won- 
dered that I had such severe principles with respect to 
marriage, while I was so tolerant in everything else." 

This expression of Goethe's was remarkable to me, be- 
cause it clearly showed what he really intended by that 
often misunderstood work ("Die Wahlverwandtschaften"). 

We then talked about Tieck, and his personal relation to 
Goethe. 

" I entertain the greatest kindness for Tieck," said 
Goethe ; " and I think that, on the whole, he is well dis- 
posed towards me. Still, there is something not as it ought 
to be in his relation to me. This is neither my fault nor 
his, but proceeds from causes altogether foreign. 

"When the Schlegels began to make themselves im- 
portant, I was too strong for them ; and to balance me, 
they were forced to look about for some man of talent, 
whom they might set up in opposition. Such a talent they 
found in Tieck ; and that, when placed in contrast to me, 
he might appear sufficiently important in the eyes of the 
public, they were forced to make more of him than he 
really was. This injured our mutual relation ; for Tieck, 
without being properly conscious of it himself, was thus 
placed in a false position with respect to me. 

" Tieck is a talent of great importance, and no one can 
be more sensible than myself to his extraordinary merits ; 
only when they raise him above himself, and place him on 
a level with me, they are in error. I can speak this out 
plainly ; it matters nothing to me,' for I did not make 
myself. I might just as well compare myself with Shake- 
speare, who likewise did not make himself, and who is 
nevertheless a being of a higher order, to whom I must 
look up with reverence." 

Goethe was this evening full of energy and gaiety. He 
brought some manuscript poems, which he read aloud. It 
was quite a peculiar pleasure to hear him, for not only did 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



79 



the original force and freshness of the poems excite me to 
a high degree, bnt Goethe, by his manner of reading them, 
showed himself to me on a side hitherto unknown, but 
highly important. What variety and force in his voice ! 
What life and expression in the noble countenance, so full 
of wrinkles ! And what eyes ! 

Wed., April 14. — I went out walking with Goethe about 
one. We discussed the styles of various writers. 

" On the whole," said Goethe, " philosophical speculation 
is an injury to the Germans, as it tends to make their style 
vague, difficult, and obscure. The stronger their attach- 
ment to certain philosophical schools, the worse they write. 
Those Germans who, as men of business and actual life, 
confine themselves to the practical, write the best. Schiller's 
style is most noble and impressive whenever he leaves off 
philosophizing, as I observe every day in his highly inter- 
esting letters, with which I am now busy. 

" There are likewise among the German women, genial 
beings who write a really excellent style, and, indeed, in 
that respect surpass many of our celebrated male writers. 

"The English almost always write well ; being born 
orators and practical men, with a tendency to the real. 

" The French, in their style, remain true to their general 
character. They are of a social nature, and therefore never 
forget the public whom they address ; they strive to be clear, 
that they may convince their reader — agreeable, that they 
may please him. 

"Altogether, the style of a writer is a faithful repre- 
sentative of his mind; therefore, if any man wish to 
write a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts ; 
and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess 
a noble soul." 

Goethe then spoke of his antagonists as a race which 
would never become extinct. " Their number," said he, " is 
legion ; yet they may be in some degree classified. First, 
there are my antagonists from stupidity — those who do not 
understand me, and find fault with me without knowing 
me. This large company has wearied me much in the 
course of my life ; yet shall they be forgiven, for they knew 
not what they did. 

" The second large class is composed of those who envy 



80 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



me. These grudge me the fortune and the dignified station 
I have attained through my talents. They pluck at my fame, 
and would like to destroy me. If I were poor a3id_ miserable, 
they would assail me no more. 

" There are many who have been my adversaries, because 
they have failed themselves. In this class are many of fine 
talent, but they cannot forgive me for casting them into the 
shade. 

" Fourthly, there are my antagonists from reasons. For, 
as I am a human being, and as such have human faults and 
weaknesses, my writings cannot be free from them. Yet, as 
I was constantly bent on my own improvement, and always 
striving to ennoble myself, I was in a state of constant pro- 
gress, and it often happened that they blamed me for faults 
which I had long since left behind. These good folks have 
injured me least of any, as they shot at me, when I was 
already miles distant. Generally when a work was finished, 
it became uninteresting to me ; I thought of it no more, but 
busied myself with some new plan. 

" Another large class comprises those who are adversaries, 
because they differ from me in their views and modes of 
thought. It is said of the leaves on a tree, that you will 
scarcely find two perfectly alike, and thus, among a thou- 
sand men, you will scarce find two, who harmonize entirely 
in their views and ways of thinking. This being allowed, 
I ought less to wonder at having so many opponents, than 
at having so many friends and adherents. My tendencies 
were opposed to those of my time, which were wholly sub- 
jective ; while in my objective efforts, I stood quite alone to 
my own disadvantage. 

" Schiller had, in this respect, great advantage over me. 
Hence, a certain well-meaning general once gave me plainly 
to understand that I ought to write like Schiller. I replied 
by analyzing Schiller's merits, for I knew them better than 
he. I went quietly on in my own way, not troubling my- 
self further about success, and taking as little notice as 
possible of my opponents." 

We returned, and had a very pleasant time at d inn er. 
Frau von Goethe talked much of Berlin, where she had 
lately been. She spoke with especial warmth of the Duchess 
of Cumberland, who had shown her much kindness. Goethe 



1 82 4 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



81 



remembered this princess, who, when very young, had passed 
some time with his mother, with particular interest. 

In the evening, I had a musical treat of a high order at 
Goethe's house, where some fine singers, under the super- 
intendence of Eberwein, performed part of Handel's Messiah. 
The Countess Caroline von Egloff stein, Fraulein von Froriep, 
with Frau von Pogwisch and Frau von Goethe, joined the 
female singers, and thus kindly gratified a wish which 
Goethe had entertained long since. 

Goethe, sitting at some distance, wholly absorbed in hear- 
ing, passed a happy evening, full of admiration at this noble 
work. 

Mon. y April 19. — The greatest philologist of our time, 
Friedrich August Wolf, from Berlin, is here, on his way 
towards the south of France. Goethe gave, to-day, on his 
account, a dinner to his Weimar friends, at which General 
Superintendent Rohr, Chancellor von Miiller, Oberbau- 
director Coudray, Professor Riemer, and Hofrath Rehbein, 
and myself, were present. The conversation was very lively. 
Wolf was full of witty sallies, Goethe being constantly his 
opponent in the pleasantest way. " I cannot," said Goethe 
to me afterwards, "get on with Wolf, at all, without assum- 
ing the character of Mephistophiles. Nothing else brings 
out his hidden treasures." 

The ton mots at table were too evanescent, and too much 
the result of the moment, to bear repetition. Wolf was 
very great in witty turns and repartees, but nevertheless 
it seemed to me that Goethe always maintained a certain 
superiority over him. 

The hours at table flew by as if with wings, and six o'clock 
came before we were aware. I went with young Goethe 
to the theatre, where "Zauberfiote" was played. After- 
wards I saw Wolf in the box, with the Grand Duke Carl 
August. 

Wolf remained in Weimar till the 25th, when he set out 
for the south of France. The state of his health was such 
that Goethe did not conceal the greatest anxiety about him. 

Sun. y May 2. — Goethe reproved me for not having visited 
a certain family of distinction. "You might," said he, 
"have passed there, during the winter, many delightful 

a 



82 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1824. 



evenings, and have made the acquaintance of many in- 
teresting strangers ; all which yon have lost from God 
knows what caprice." 

"With my excitable temperament," I replied, "and with 
my disposition to a broad sympathy with others, nothing 
can be more burdensome and hurtful to me than an over- 
abundance of new impressions. I am neither by education 
nor habit fitted for general society. My situation in earlier 
days was such, that I feel as if I had never lived till I came 
near you. All is new to me. Every evening at the theatre, 
every conversation with you, makes an era in my existence. 
Things perfectly indifferent to persons of different education 
and habits make the deepest impression on me, and as the 
desire of instructing myself is great, my mind seizes on 
everything with a certain energy, and draws from it as 
much nourishment as possible. In this state of mind, I had 
quite enough in the course of this winter, from the theatre 
and my connection with you ; and I should not have been 
able to give myself up to other connections and engagements, 
without disturbing my mind." 

"You are an odd fellow," said Goethe, laughing. "Well, 
do as you please ; I will let you have your way." 

" And then," continued I, " I usually carry into society 
my likes and dislikes, and a certain need of loving and 
being beloved ; I seek a nature which may harmonize with 
my own ; I wish to give myself up to this, and to have 
nothing to do with the others." 

" This natural tendency of yours," replied Goethe, " is 
indeed not of a social kind ; but what would be the use of 
culture, if we did not try to control our natural tendencies ? 
It is a great folly to hope that other men will harmonize 
with us ; I have never hoped this. I have always regarded 
each man as an independent individual, whom I endeavoured 
to study, and to understand with all his peculiarities, but 
from whom I desired no further sympathy. In this way 
have I been enabled to converse with every man, and thus 
alone is produced the knowledge of various characters, and 
the dexterity necessary for the conduct of life. For it is in 
a conflict with natures opposed to his own that a man must 
collect his strength to fight his way through, and thus all 
our different sides are brought out and developed, so that 



1824.] 



CONVEKSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



33 



we soon feel ourselves a match for every foe. You should 
do the same ; you have more capacity for it than you 
imagine; indeed, you must at all events plunge into the 
great world, whether you like it or not." 

I took due heed of these good, kind words, and determined 
to act in accordance with them as much as possible. 

Towards evening, Goethe invited me to take a drive with 
him. Our road lay over the hills through Upper Weimar, 
by which we had a view of the park towards the west. 
The trees were in blossom, the birches already in full leaf, 
and the meadows were one green carpet, over which the 
setting sun cast a glow. We sought out picturesque groups, 
and could not look enough. We remarked that trees full of 
white blossoms should not be painted, because they make no 
picture, just as birches with their foliage are unfit for the fore- 
ground of a picture, because the delicate leaf does not suf- 
ficiently balance the white trunk ; there are no large masses 
for strong effects of light and shade. "Ruysdael," said 
Goethe, " never introduced the birch with its f oliage into 
his foregrounds, but only birch trunks broken off, without 
any leaves. Such a trunk is perfectly suited to a foreground, 
as its bright form comes out with most powerful effect." 

After some slight discussion of other topics, we came 
upon the mistake of those artists who made religion art, 
while for them art should be religion. " Religion," said 
Goethe, " stands in the same relation to art as any other of 
the higher interests in life. It is merely to be looked upon 
as a material, with similar claims to any other vital material. 
Faith and want of faith are not the organs with which a 
work of art is to be apprehended. On the contrary, human 
powers and capacities of a totally different character are 
required. Art must address itself to those organs with 
which we apprehend it ; otherwise it misses its effect. A 
religious material may be a good subject for art, but only 
in so far as it possesses general human interest. The Virgin 
with the Child is on this account an excellent subject, and 
one that may be treated a hundred times, and always seen 
again with pleasure." 

In the mean while, we had gone round the thicket (the 
Webicht), and had turned by Tiefurt into the Weimar road, 
where we had a view of the setting sun. Goethe was for a 



84 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824, 



while lost in thought ; he then said to me, in the words of 
one of the ancients— 

Untergehend sogar isi's immer dieselbige Sonne. 

" Still it continues the self-same sun, e'en while it is sinking." 

"At the age of seventy-five," continued he, with mnch 
cheerfulness, "one must, of course, think sometimes of 
death. But this thought never gives me the least uneasiness, 
for I am fully convinced that our spirit is a being of a 
nature quite indestructible, and that its activity continues 
from eternity to eternity. It is like the sun, which seems 
to set only to our earthly eyes, but which, in reality, never 
sets, but shines on unceasingly." 

The sun had, in the mean while, sunk behind the 
Ettersberg ; we felt in the wood the chill of the evening, 
and drove all the quicker to Weimar, and to Goethe's house. 
Goethe urged me to go in with him for a while, and I did 
so. He was in an extremely engaging, amiable mood. 
He talked a great deal about his theory of colours, and of 
his obstinate opponents ; remarking that he was sure that 
he had done something in this science. 

"To make an epoch in the world," said he, "two con- 
ditions are notoriously essential — a good head and a great 
inheritance. Napoleon inherited the French Revolution; 
Frederick the Great, the Silesian War ; Luther, the dark- 
ness of the Popes ; and I, the errors of the Newtonian 
theory. The present generation has no conception of 
what I have accomplished in this matter, but posterity will 
grant that I have by no means come into a bad inheritance ! " 

Goethe had sent me this morning a roll of papers relative 
to the theatre, among which I had found some detached 
remarks, containing the rules and studies which he had 
made with Wolff and Griiner to qualify them for good 
actors. I found these details important and highly instruc- 
tive for young actors, and therefore proposed to put them 
together, and make from them a sort of theatrical catechism. 
Goethe consented, and we discussed the matter further. 
This gave us occasion to speak of some distinguished actors 
who had been formed in his school ; and I took the oppor- 
tunity to ask some questions about Frau von Heigendorf . 
" I may," said Goethe, " have influenced her, but, properly 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



speaking, she is not my pupil. She was, as it were, born 
S>n the "boards, and was as decided, ready, and adroit in 
anything as a duck in the water. She needed not my 
instruction, but did what was right instinctively, and per- 
haps without knowing it." 

We then talked of the many years he had superintended 
the theatre, and the infinite time which had thus been lost 
to literary production. "Yes," said he, "I may have 
missed writing many a good thing, but when I reflect, I am 
not sorry. I have always regarded all I have done solely 
as symbolical ; and, in fact, it has been tolerably indifferent 
to me whether I have made pots or dishes." 

(Sup. iX< ) Wed., May 5. — The papers containing the 
studies which Goethe prosecuted with the actors Wolff 
and Griiner have occupied me very pleasantly during the 
last few days ; and I have succeeded in bringing these 
dismembered notices into a sort of form, so that something 
has arisen from them which may be regarded as the be- 
ginning of a catechism for actors. I spoke with Goethe 
about this work to-day, and we went through the various 
topics in detail. The remarks concerning pronunciation, 
and the laying aside of provincialisms, appeared to us par- 
ticularly important. 

" I have, in my long practice," said Goethe, " become 
acquainted with beginners from all parts of Germany. 
The pronunciation of the North German leaves little to be 
desired : it is pure, and may in many respects be looked 
upon as a model. On the contrary, I have often had a 
great deal of trouble with native Suabians, Austrians, and 
Saxons. The natives of our beloved town, Weimar, have 
also given me a great d eal to do. Among these have arisen 
the most ridiculous mistakes ; because in schools here they 
are not forced to distinguish, by a marked pronunciation, 
b from p, and d from t. One would scarcely believe that 
Z>, d, and t are generally considered to be four different 
letters ; for they only speak of a hard and a soft b, and of 
a hard and a soft d, and thus seem tacitly to intimate that 
p and t do not exist. With such people, Pern (pain) sounds 
like Bein (leg), Pas (pass) like Bass (bass), and TecJcel f like 
Deckel (cover)." 

f A provincial word for a terrier. 



SG 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



"An actor of this town," added I, "who did not pro- 
perly distinguish t from d, lately made a mistake of the 
kind, which appeared very striking. He was playing a 
lover, who had been guilty of a little infidelity ; whereupon 
the angry young lady showered upon him various violent 
reproaches. Growing impatient, he had to exclaim, ' 
ende / ' (0 cease !) ; but being unable to distinguish the T 
from the D, he exclaimed, 1 ente ! ' (0 duck !) which ex- 
cited general laughter. 

"The circumstance is very quaint," returned Goethe, 
"and will do well to mention in our ' Theatrical Cate- 
chism.' " 

"Lately, a young singer, likewise of this town," con- 
tinued I, "who could not make the distinction between the 
t and the d, had to say, ' Ich will dich den Eingevjeihten 
ubergeben 9 (I will give you up to the initiated) ; but as she 
pronounced the t as d, it sounded as if she said, ' Ich will 
dich den Eingeweiden ubergeben 9 (I will give you up to the 
bowels). 

"Again, an actor of this town," continued I, "who 
played the part of a servant, had to say to a stranger, 
' Mem Herr ist nicht zu Haus, er sitzt vm Rathe ' (my master 
is not at home, he sits in council) ; but as he could not 
distinguish the t from the d, it sounded as if he said ' Mein 
Herr ist nicht zu Haus, er sitzt im Rade 9 (my master is not 
at home, he sits in the wheel)." 

".These incidents," said Goethe, "are not bad, and we 
will notice them. Thus, if any one who does not dis- 
tinguish the p from the &, has to call out, ' Paclce ihn an ! ' 
(seize him), but, instead of this, exclaims, ' JBacke ihn an ! ' 
(stick him on), it is very laughable. 

" In a similar manner," said Goethe, " the ii is frequently 
pronounced like i, which has been the cause of not a few 
scandalous mistakes. I have frequently heard said, instead 
of Kustenbewohner (inhabitant of the coast), Kistenbeiuohner 
(inhabitant of the box) ; instead of Thurstuck (a painting 
over a door), Thierstiick (animal-picture) ; instead of Trube 
(gloomy), Triebe (impulses) ; and instead of Ihr miisst (you 
must), Ihr misst (you miss) ; — not, however, without a 
hearty laugh." 

" I lately noticed at the theatre," said I, " a very ludi- 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



87 



crous case of the kind, in which a lady, in a critical 
situation, has to follow a man, whom she had never seen 
before. She had to say, ' Ich Jcenne Dich zwar nicht, aber 
ich setze mein ganzes Vertrauenin den JEdelmuth Deiner Ziige' 
(I do not know yon, bnt I place entire confidence in the 
nobility of your countenance) ; but as she pronounced the 
u like i, she said, ' Ich Jcenne Dich zwar nicht, aber ich setze 
mein ganzes Vertrauen in den Edelmuth Deiner Ziege' (I do 
not know you, but I place entire confidence in the nobility 
of your goat)." This caused great laughter. 

" This anecdote is not bad," returned Groethe, " and we 
will notice it also. Thus, too," continued he, " g and k are 
here frequently confounded ; g being used instead of k, and 
h instead of g, possibly from uncertainty whether the letter 
should be hard or soft, a result of the doctrine so much in 
vogue here. You have probably often heard, or will hear, 
at some future time, in our theatre, Kartenhaus (card- 
house) instead of Gartenhaus (garden-house), Kasse (chest) 
instead of Gasse (lane), Klauben (to pick out) instead of 
Glauben (to believe), bekrdnzen (to enwreath) instead of 
begrenzen (to bound), and Kunst (art) instead of Gunst 
(favour)." 

" I have already heard something similar," returned I. 
" An actor of this town had to say, ' Dein Gram geht mir 
zu Herzen,' (thy grief touches my heart). But he pro- 
nounced the g like Jc, and said very distinctly, ' Dein Kram 
geht mir zu Ilerzen 9 (thy goods * touch my heart)." 

"Besides," answered Groethe, "we hear this substitution 
of g for k, not merely amongst actors, but even amongst 
very learned theologians. I once personally experienced 
an incident of this sort ; and I will relate it to you. 

" When I. some five years ago, stayed for some time at 
Jena, and lodged at the ' Fir Tree,' a theological student 
one morning presented himself to me. After he had con- 
versed with me very agreeably for some time, he made, as 
he was just going, a request of a most peculiar kind. He 
begged me to allow him to preach in my stead on the next 
Sunday. I immediately discovered which way the wind 
blew, and that the hopeful youth was one of those who 



Or lumber. — Trans. 



88 



CONVEKSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



confound g for h. I, therefore, answered him in a friendly 
manner, that I could not personally assist him in this affair ; 
but that he would be sure to attain his object, if he would 
be so good as to apply to Archdeacon Koethe." 

Thurs., May 6. — When I came to Weimar, last summer, 
it was not, as I have said, my intention to remain here, I 
only intended to make Goethe's personal acquaintance, and 
then to visit the Rhine, where I intended to live some time 
in a suitable place. 

However, I had been detained in Weimar by Goethe's 
remarkable kindness, and my relation to him had become 
more and more practical, inasmuch as he drew me more 
and more into his own interest, and gave me much impor- 
tant work to do, preparatory to a complete edition of his 
works. 

Thus in the course of last winter, I collected several 
divisions of " tame Xenia " (zaJime Xenieii) from the most 
confused bundles of paper, arranged a volume of new 
poems, and the " Theatrical Catechism," and also the out- 
lines of a treatise on " Dillettantism," in the different arts. 

I had, however, never forgotten my design of seeing the 
Rhine ; and Goethe himself, that I might not carry within 
me the sting of an unsatisfied desire, advised me to devote 
some months of this summer to a visit to that region. 

It was, however, decidedly his wish that I should return 
to Weimar. He observed that it was not good to break 
ties scarcely formed, and that everything in life to be of 
value must have a sequence. He, at t-hc same time, plainly 
intimated to me that he had selected me and Riemer, not 
only to aid him in preparing a new and complete edition of 
his works, but to take the whole charge of it in case he 
should be suddenly called away, as might naturally happen 
at his advanced age. 

He showed me this morning immense packages of letters, 
laid out in what is called the Chamber of Busts (Busten- 
Zimmer). " These," said he, " are all letters which I have 
received since 1780, from the most distinguished men of 
our country. There lies hoarded in these a rich treasure of 
thoughts, which it shall some time be your office to impart 
to the public. I am now having a chest made, in which 
these letters will be put, together with the rest of my 



1 824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



89 



literary remains. I wish you, before you set out on your 
journey, to put them all in order, that I may feel easy 
about them, and have a care the less." 

He then told me that he intended to visit Marienbad this 
summer, but did not intend to go till the end of July, the 
reasons for which he disclosed to me in confidence. He 
expressed a wish that I should be back before his departure, 
that he might speak to me. 

A few weeks afterwards, I visited my friends in Hanover, 
then stopped during the months of June and July on the 
Rhine, where, especially at Frankfort, Heidelberg, and 
Bonn, I made many valuable acquaintances among Goethe's 
friends.* 

(Sup.) Tues., May 18. — This evening at Goethe's, in 
company with Eiemer. 

Goethe talked to us about an English poem, of which 
geology was the subject. He made, as he went on, an 
impromptu translation of it, with so much spirit, imagina- 
tion, and good humour, that every individual object stood 
before us, with as much life as if it were his own invention 
at the moment. The hero of the poem, King Coal, was 
seen, in his brilliant hall of audience, seated upon his 
throne, his consort Pyrites by his side, waiting for the 
nobles of the kingdom. Entering according to their rank, 
they appeared one by one before the king, and were intro- 
duced as Duke Granite, Marquis Slate, Countess Porphyry, 
and so on with the rest, who were all characterized by some 
excellent epithet and joke. Then followed Sir Lorenzo Chalk, 
a man of great possessions, and well received at court. 
He excuses his mother, the Lady Marble, on the ground 
that her residence is rather distant. She is a very polished 
and accomplished lady, and a cause of her non-appearance 
at court, on this occasion, is, that she is involved in an 
intrigue with Canova, who likes to flirt with her. Tufa, 
whose hair is decked with lizards and fishes, appears rather 
intoxicated. Hans Marl and Jacob Clay do not appear till 
the end ; the last is a particular favourite of the queen, 

* This short statement, though attached to the conversation of 6th 
May in the first volume, will be read more properly after 26th May 
(p. 92), which is taken from the supplemental volume. 



90 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



L1824. 



because he has promised her a collection of shells. Thus 
the whole went on for a long time in the most cheerful 
tone ; but the details were too minute for me to note the 
further progress of the story. 

"Such a poem," said Goethe, "is quite calculated to 
amuse people of the world; while at the same time it 
diffuses a quantity of useful information, which no one 
ought properly to be without. A taste for science is thus 
excited amongst the higher circles ; and no one knows how 
much good may ultimately result from such an entertaining 
half -joke. Many a clever person may be induced to make 
observations himself, within his own immediate sphere. 
And such individual observations, drawn from the natural 
objects with which we are in contact, are often the more 
valuable, the less the observer professionally belongs to the 
particular department of science." 

"You appear, then, to intimate," returned I, "that the 
more one knows, the worse one observes." 

" Certainly," said Goethe, " when the knowledge which 
is handed down is combined with errors. As soon as any 
one belongs to a certain narrow creed in science, every 
unprejudiced and true perception is gone. The decided 
Vulcanist always sees through the spectacles of a Yulcanist ; 
and every ISTeptunist, and every professor of the newest 
elevation-theory, through his own. The contemplation of 
the world, with all these theorists, who are devoted to an 
exclusive tendency, has lost its innocence, and the objects 
no longer appear in their natural purity. If these learned 
men, then, give an account of their observations, we obtain, 
notwithstanding their love of truth as individuals, no actual 
truth with reference to the objects themselves ; but we 
always receive these objects with the taste of a strong, 
subjective mixture. 

" I am, however, far from maintaining that an unpreju- 
diced, correct knowledge is a drawback to observation. I 
am much more inclined to support the old truth, that we, 
properly speaking, have only eyes and ears for what we 
know, The musician by profession hears, in an orchestral 
performance, every instrument and every single tone, 
whilst one unacquainted with the art is wrapped up in the 
massive effect of the whole. A man merely bent upon 



1 824-] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



91 



enjoyment sees in a green or flowery meadow only a pleasant 
plain, while the eye of a botanist discovers an endless detail 
of the most varied plants and grasses." 

" Still everything has its measnre and goal, and as it has 
been said in my ' Goetz von Berlichingen,' that the son, from 
pure learning, does not know his own father, so in science do 
we find people who can neither see nor hear through sheer 
learning and hypothesis. Such people look at once within ; 
they are so occupied by what is revolving in themselves, 
that they are like a man in a passion, who passes his dearest 
friends in the street without seeing them. The observation 
of nature requires a certain purity of mind, which cannot be 
disturbed or pre-occupied by anything. The beetle on the 
flower does not escape the child; he has devoted all his 
senses to a single, simple interest ; and it never strikes him 
that, at the same moment, something remarkable may be 
going on in the formation of the clouds to distract his 
glances in that direction." 

" Then," returned I, " children and the child-like would 
be good hod-men in science." 

" Would to God ! " exclaimed Goethe, " we were all 
nothing more than good hod-men. It is just because we 
will be more, and carry about with us a great apparatus of 
philosophy and hypothesis, that we spoil all." 
. Then followed a pause in the conversation, which E-iemer 
broke by mentioning Lord Byron and his death. Goethe 
thereupon gave a brilliant elucidation of his writings, and 
was full of the highest praise and the purest acknowledg- 
ment. 

"However," continued he, " although Byron has died so 
young, literature has not suffered an essential loss, through 
a hindrance to its further extension. Byron could, in a 
certain sense, go no further. He had reached the summit 
of his creative power, and whatever he might have done in 
the future, he would have been unable to extend the boun- 
daries of his talent. In the incomprehensible poem, ' The 
Vision of Judgment,' he has done the utmost of which he 
was capable." 

The discourse then turned upon the Italian poet, Torquato 
Tasso, and his resemblance to Lord Byron, when Goethe 
could not conceal the superiority of the Englishman, in spirit, 



<J2 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



grasp of the world, and productive power. " One cannot," 
continued he, "compare these poets with each other, 
without annihilating one by the other. Byron is the 
burning thorn-bush which reduces the holy cedar of 
Lebanon to ashes. The great epic poem of the Italian has 
maintained its fame for centuries ; but yet, with a single 
line of ' Don Juan,' one could poison the whole of 1 Jerusa- 
lem delivered.' " 

(Sup.) Wed., May 26.— To-day I took leave of Goethe, 
in order to visit my friends in Hanover, and thence to pro- 
ceed to the Rhine, according to my long meditated plan. 
Goethe was very affectionate, and pressed me in his arms. 
4 ' If at Hanover you should chance to meet, at Rehberg's, 
Charlotte Kestner, the old friend of my youth, remember 
me to her kindly. In Frankfort, I commend you to my 
friends Willemmers, the Count Reinhardt, and the Schlossers. 
Then both in Heidelberg and Bonn, you will find friends 
who are truly devoted to me, and from whom you will 
receive a most hearty welcome. I did intend again to spend 
some time at Marienbad this summer ; but I shall not go 
until after your return." 

The parting with Goethe was very trying to me ; though 
I went away with the firm conviction of seeing him again, 
safe and sound, at the end of two months. 

Nevertheless, I felt very happy next day when the car- 
riage conveyed me toward my beloved home in Hanover, to 
which my heartiest wishes are constantly directed. 

Tues., Aug. 10. — About a week ago, I returned from my 
tour on the Rhine. Goethe expressed much joy at my 
arrival ; and I, on my part, was not less pleased to be with 
him again. He had a great deal to say to me ; so that for 
the first few days I stirred but little from his side. His 
design of going to Marienbad he has abandoned, and does 
not intend to travel this summer. "Now you are again 
here," he said, "I may have a very pleasant August." 

A few days ago, he put into my hands the commencement 
of a continuation of "Wahrheit und Dichtung," written 
on quarto leaves, and scarcely a finger's breadth thick. 
Part is complete, but the greater part consists of mere 
indications. However, it is already divided into five books, 
and the leaves containing the sketch are so arranged that, 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



93 



with a little trouble, one can take a survey of the general 
import. 

The portion that is already finished appears to me so 
excellent, and the import of the sketched portion to be so 
valuable, that I regret exceedingly to see a work which 
promises so much instruction and enjoyment come to a 
standstill, and I shall make every effort to urge Goethe to 
continue and complete it as soon as possible. 

The plan of the whole has much of the character of a 
novel. A graceful, tender, passionate love-affair, cheerful 
in its origin, idyllic in its progress, tragic at the end, through 
a tacit but mutual renunciation, runs through four books, 
and combines them to an organized whole. The charm of 
Lili's character, described in detail, is of a sort to captivate 
every reader, just as it held the lover himself in such bonds 
that he could only save himself by repeated flight. 

The epoch of life set forth is of a highly romantic nature, 
or, at least, becomes so as it is developed in the principal 
character. But it acquires special significance and impor- 
tance from the circumstance that, as an epoch preceding the 
position at Weimar, it is decisive for the whole life. If, 
therefore, any section of Goethe's life has any interest, and 
raises a wish for a detailed description, it is precisely this. 

To excite in Goethe a new ardour for this work, which 
has been interrupted and has lain untouched for years, I 
have not only talked with him on the subject, but have 
sent him the following notes, that he may see at once 
what is finished and what has still to be worked out and 
arranged.* 

First Book. — This book, which, according to the original 
intention, may be regarded as complete, contains a sort of 
exposition, inasmuch as it expresses the wish for a partici- 
pation in worldly affairs, the fulfilment of which takes place 
at the end of the whole epoch, through the invitation to 
Weimar. However, that it may be connected more closely 
with the whole, I suggest that the relation to Lili, which 
runs through the four following books, should begin in this 
first book, and continue as far as the excursion to Offen- 

* The last five books of " Wahrheit und Dictating " were afterwards 
published in Goethe's posthumous works, but Eckermann's arrange, 
ment was not adopted. — Trans. 



94 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



bach. Thus, too, this hook would gain in compass and 
importance, and too great an increase of the second would 
be prevented. 

Second Book. — The idyllic life at Offenbach would then 
open this second book, and would go through with the 
happy love affair, till it, at last, begins to assume a doubt- 
ful, earnest, and even tragical character. The contempla- 
tion of serious matters, promised by the sketch in reference 
to Stilling, is well placed here, and much that is instructive 
may be anticipated from the design, which is simply indi- 
cated by a few words. 

Third Book. — The third book, which contains the plan 
of a continuation of "Faust," is to be regarded as an 
episode, but is connected with the other books, by the 
attempt at a separation from Lili, which remains to be 
carried out. Whether the plan of " Faust " is to be com- 
municated or kept back is a doubtful point, which cannot 
be resolved until we examine the fragments now ready, and 
make up our minds whether the hope of a continuation of 
" Faust " is to be given up or not. 

Fourth Book. — The third book would terminate with 
the attempt at a separation from Lili. This fourth book, 
therefore, very aptly begins with the arrival of the Stol- 
bergs and of Haugwitz, by which the journey into Switzer- 
land and the first flight from Lili are brought about. 
The complete sketch of this book promises the most 
interesting matter, and excites a wish for the most thorough 
details. The passion for Lili, which is constantly bursting 
forth, and which cannot be suppressed, glows through the 
whole book with the fire of youthful love, and gives a 
peculiar, pleasant, and magical light to the situation of the 
traveller. 

Fifth Book. — This beautiful book is likewise nearly 
finished ; at least the latter part, up to the conclusion, which 
touches on the unfathomable nature of fate, may be re- 
garded as quite finished ; and only a little is wanting for 
the introduction, of which there is already a very clear 
sketch. The working-out is, however, the more necessary 
and desirable, as the first mention is made of the Weimar 
affairs, and thus our interest for them is first excited. 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



05 



Mon., Aug. 16. — My conversations with Goethe have 
lately been very abundant in matter, but I have been so 
much engaged with other things as to render it impossible 
to write down anything of importance, from the fulness of 
his discourse. 

Only the following detached sentences are found noted 
down in my diary ; the connection between them and the 
occasion that gave rise to them, I have forgotten : — 

Men are swimming pots, which knock against each 
other. 

In the morning we are shrewdest, but also most anxious ; 
for even anxiety is a species of shrewdness, though only a 
passive one. Stupidity is without anxiety. 

We must not take the faults of our youth into our old 
age ; for old age brings with it its own defects. 

Court life is like music, in which every one must keep 
time. 

Courtiers would died of ennui, if they could not fill up 
their time with ceremonies. 

It is not right to counsel a prince to give way, even in 
the most trivial matter. 

He who would train actors must have infinite patience. 

Tues., Nov. 9. — I passed this evening with Goethe. We 
talked of Klopstock and Herder ; and I liked to listen to 
him, as he explained to me the merits of those men. 

"Without those powerful precursors," said Goethe, " our 
literature could not have become what it now is. When 
they appeared, they were before their age, and were obliged, 
as it were, to drag it after them ; but now the age has far 
outrun them, and they who were once so necessary and 
important have now ceased to be means to an end. A 
young man who would take Klopstock and Herder for his 
teachers nowadays would be far behindhand." 

We talked over Klopstock's " Messiah " and his Odes, 
touching on their merits and their defects. We agreed that 
he had no faculty for observing and apprehending the 
visible world, or for drawing characters ; and that he there- 
fore wanted the qualities most essential to the epic and 
dramatic poet, or, perhaps it might be said, to the poet 
generally. 



96 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1824. 



"An ode occurs to me," said Goethe, " where he makes 
the German Muse run a race with the British ; and, indeed, 
when one thinks what a picture it is, where the two girls 
run one against the other, throwing about their legs, and 
kicking up the dust, one must assume that the good 
Klopstock did not really have before his eyes such pictures 
as he wrote, else he could not possibly have made such 
mistakes." 

I asked how he had felt towards Klopstock in his youth. 

" I venerated him," said Goethe, " with the devotion 
which was peculiar to me ; I looked upon him as my uncle. 
I revered whatever he had done, and never thought of 
reflecting upon it, or finding fault with it. I let his fine 
qualities work upon me ; for the rest, I went my own way." 

We came back to Herder, and I asked Goethe which of 
his works he thought the best. " His ' Ideas for the His- 
tory of Mankind ' " (Ideen zur Geschiclite der Menschlieit), 
replied Goethe, " are undoubtedly the best. In after days, 
he took the negative side, and was not so agreeable." 

" Considering the great weight of Herder," said I, " I 
cannot understand how he had so little judgment on some 
subjects. For instance, I cannot forgive him, especially at 
that period of German literature, for sending back the 
manuscript of ' Goetz von Berlichingen ' without any praise 
of its merits, and with taunting remarks. He must have 
utterly wanted organs to perceive some objects." 

"Yes, Herder was unfortunate in this respect," replied 
Goethe ; "nay," added he, with vivacity, "if his spirit were 
present at this conversation, it would not understand us." 

" On the other hand," said I, " I must praise Merck, who 
urged you to print ' Goetz.' " 

" He was indeed an odd but important man," said Goethe. 
" ' Print the thing,' quoth he, ' it is worth nothing, but 
print it.' He did not wish me to make any alteration in 
it, and he was right ; for it would have been different, but 
not better." 

Wed., Nov. 24. — I went to see Goethe this evening, 
before going to the theatre, and found him very well and 
cheerful. He inquired about the young Englishmen who 
are here. I told him that I proposed reading with Mr. 
Doolan a German translation of Plutarch. This led the 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



97 



conversation to Roman and Grecian history ; and Goethe 
expressed himself as follows : — 

" The Roman history," said he, "is no longer suited to 
us. We have become too hnmane for the triumphs of 
Caesar not to be repugnant to our feelings. Neither are we 
much charmed by the history of Greece. When this people 
turns against a foreign foe, it is, indeed, great and glorious ; 
but the division of the states, and their eternal wars with 
one another, where Greek fights against Greek, are insuffer- 
able. Besides, the history of our own time is thoroughly 
great and important ; the battles of Leipsic and Waterloo 
stand out with such prominence, that that of Marathon and 
others like it are gradually eclipsed. Neither are our 
individual heroes inferior to theirs ; the French Marshals, 
Bliicher, and Wellington, vie with any of the heroes of 
antiquity." 

We then talked of the late French literature, and the 
daily increasing interest in German works manifested by 
the French. 

" The French," said Goethe, " do well to study and 
translate our writers ; for, limited as they are both in form 
and motives, they can only look without for means. We 
Germans may be reproached for a certain formlessness; 
but in matter we are their superiors. The theatrical pro- 
ductions of Kotzebue and Inland are so rich in motives 
that they may pluck them a long time before all is used 
up. But, especially, our philosophical Ideality is welcome to 
them ; for every Ideal is serviceable to revolutionary aims. 

" The French have understanding and esprit, but neither 
a solid basis nor piety. What serves the moment, what 
helps his party, seems right to the Frenchman. Hence 
they praise us, never from an acknowledgment of our 
merits, but only when they can strengthen their party by 
our views." 

We then talked about our own literature, and of the 
obstacles in the way of some of our latest young poets. 

" The majority of our young poets," said Goethe, "have 
no fault but this, that their subjectivity is not important, 
and that they cannot find matter in the objective. At best, 
they only find a material, which is similar to themselves, 
which corresponds to their own subjectivity; but as for 

H 



93 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



taking the material on its own account, when it is repug- 
nant to the subjectivity, merely because it is poetical, such 
a thing is never thought of. 

" Still, as I have said, if we only had important person- 
ages, formed by great studies and situations in life, it might 
still go well with us, at least as far as our young lyric poets 
are concerned." 

Fri., Bee. 3. — A proposal has lately reached me to write 
for an English periodical, on very favourable terms, monthly 
notices of the latest productions in German literature. I 
was much inclined to accept the proposal, but thought it 
would be good first to talk over the affair with Goethe. 

I went to him this evening. The curtains were down, 
and he was seated before a table, on which dinner had been 
served, and on which burned two lights which illuminated 
at once his own face and a colossal bust which stood before 
him on the table, and at which he was looking. " Now," 
said Goethe, pointing at the bust, after greeting me in a 
friendly manner, " who is this ? " " Apparently, a poet, and 
an Italian," I replied. " It is Dante," said he : "it is well 
done ; a fine head, yet not very pleasing. He seems old, 
bowed down, and peevish ; the features are lax, and drawn 
down, as if he had just come from hell. I have a medal, 
which was struck during his life, and there everything 
appears much better." 

He rose and brought the medal. "Do you see what 
power there is in the nose and the swell of the upper Hp, 
the energy of the chin, and its fine blending with the cheek 
bone ? The part about the eyes and the forehead are the 
same in this bust ; but all the rest is weaker and older. 
Yet I will not find fault with the new work, which, on the 
whole, has great merit, and deserves praise." 

Goethe then inquired what I had been doing and thinking 
about of late. I told him that a proposal had reached me 
to write for an English periodical, on very advantageous 
terms, monthly notices of the newest productions of the 
German prose belles lettres, and that I was much inclined 
to accept the offer. 

Goethe's face, which had hitherto worn so friendly an 
expression, clouded over at these words, and I could read 
in every movement his disapproval of my project. 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



90 



" I wish," said lie, " your friends would leave you in 
peace. Why should you trouble yourself with things which 
lie quite out of your way, and are contrary to the tendencies 
of your nature ? We have gold, silver, and paper money, 
and each has its own value ; but to do justice to each, you 
must understand the exchange. And so in literature. You 
understand the metallic, but not the paper currency : you 
are not equal to this ; your criticisms will be unjust, and do 
hurt. If you wish to be just, and give everything its 
proper place, you must first become acquainted with our 
middle literature, and make up your mind to a study by no 
means trifling. You must look back and see what the Schle- 
gels proposed and performed, and then read all our later 
authors, Franz Horn, Hoffmann, Clauren, &c. Even this is 
not enough. You must also take in all the journals of the day, 
f rom the i Morgenblatt ' to the 4 Abend zeitung,' in order 
that nothing which comes out may escape you ; and thus 
you will spoil your best days and hours. Then all new 
books, which you would criticise with any degree of profun- 
dity, you must not only skim over, but study. How would 
you relish that ? And, finally, if you find that what is bad 
is bad, you must not say so, if you would not run the risk 
of being at war with all the world. 

" No ; as I have said, decline the proposal ; it is not in 
your way. Generally, beware of dissipating your powers, 
and strive to concentrate them. Had I been so wise thirty 
years ago, I should have done very differently. How much 
time I lost with Schiller on his 4 Horen ' and ' Musen- 
Almanachs ! ' Now, when I have just been looking over our 
correspondence, I feel this most forcibly, and cannot think 
without chagrin on those undertakings which made the 
world abuse us, and which were entirely without result for 
ourselves. Talent thinks it can do whatever it sees others 
doing ; but this is not the case, and it will have to repent 
its Faux-frais (idle expenses). What good does it do to 
curl up your hair for a single night ? You have paper in 
your hair, that is all ; next night, it is straight again." 

"The great point," he continued, "is to make a capital 
that will not be exhausted. This you will acquire by the 
study of the English language and literature, which you 
have already begun. Keep to that, and continually make 

h2 



100 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1824. 



use of the advantages you now possess in the acquaintance 
of the young Englishmen. You studied the ancient languages 
but little during your youth ; therefore, seek now a strong- 
hold in the literature of so able a nation as the English. 
And, besides, our own literature is chiefly the offspring of 
theirs ! Whence have we our novels, our tragedies, but 
from Goldsmith, Fielding, and Shakspeare ? And in our 
own day, where will you find in Germany three literary 
heroes, who can be placed on a level with Lord Byron, 
Moore, and Walter Scott ? Once more, ground yourself in 
English, concentrate your powers for something good, and 
give up everything which can produce no result of conse- 
quence to you, and is not suited to you." 

I rejoiced that I had thus made Goethe speak. I was 
perfectly satisfied in my mind, and determined to comply 
vvith his advice in every respect. 

Chancellor von Miiller was now announced, and sat down 
with us. The conversation turned once more on the bust 
of Dante, which stood before us, and on his life and works. 
The obscurity of this author was especially mentioned — 
how his own countrymen had never understood him, so that 
it would be impossible for a foreigner to penetrate such 
darkness. " To you," said Goethe, turning towards me. 
with a friendly air, "the study of this poet is hereby 
absolutely forbidden by your father confessor." 

Goethe also remarked that the difficult rhyme is, in a 
great measure, the cause of his obscurity. For the rest, he 
spoke of Dante with extreme reverence ; and I observed 
that he was not satisfied with the word talent, but called 
him a nature, as if thus wishing to express something more 
comprehensive, more full of prescience, of deeper insight, 
and wider scope. 

Thurs., Bee. 9. — I went this evening to Goethe. He 
cordially held out his hand, and greeted me with praises of 
my poem on " Schellhorn's Jubilee." I told him that I had 
written to refuse the proposal from England. 

"Thank Heaven! " said he; "then you are free and at 
peace once more. And now let me warn you against 
something else. The composers will come and want an 
opera ; but you must be steadfast and refuse them, for that 
is a work which leads to nothing, and only loses time." 



1824.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



101 



Goethe then told me that he had sent the author of the 
" Paria," who is now at Bonn, the play bill, through Nees of 
Esenbeck, that the poet might see his piece had been 
played here. " Life is short," he added ; " we must try to do 
one another a good turn." 

The Berlin Journals lay before him, and he told me of 
the great inundation at Petersburg. He gave me the paper 
to read, and talked about the bad situation of Petersburg, 
laughing approvingly at an expression of Rousseau's, who 
said that we could not hinder an earthquake by building a 
city near a burning mountain. " Nature goes her own 
way," said he, " and all that to us seems an exception is 
really according to order." 

We then talked of the great tempests which had raged on 
every coast, and of other violent outbreaks of nature, 
mentioned in the journals, and I asked Goethe whether it 
was known how such things were connected. " That no 
one knows," replied Goethe ; " we have scarcely a suspicion 
respecting such mysteries, much less can we speak about 
them." 

Coudray and Professor Riemer were announced. Both 
joined us, and the inundation of Petersburg was again 
discussed. M. Coudray, by drawing the plan of that city, 
plainly showed us the position of the Neva, and the rest of 
the locality. 



1825. 

Hon., Jan. 10. — Goethe, consistently with his great 
interest for the English, has desired me to introduce to him 
the young Englishmen who are here at present. At five 
o'clock this afternoon, he expected me with Mr. H., the 
English engineer officer, of whom I had previously been able 
to say much good to him. We went at the expected hour, 
and were conducted by the servant to a pleasant, well- 
warmed apartment, where Goethe usually passes his after- 
noons and evenings. Three lights were burning on the table, 
but he was not there ; we heard him talking in the adjoin- 
ing saloon. 

Mr. H. looked about him for a while, and observed, besides 



102 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



the pictures and a large chart of the mountains which 
adorned the walls, a book-case full of portfolios. These, I 
told him, contained many drawings from the hands of cele- 
brated masters, and engravings after the best pictures of 
all schools, which Goethe had, during a long life, been 
gradually collecting, and the repeated contemplation of 
which afforded him entertainment. 

After we had waited a few minutes, Goethe came in, and 
greeted us cordially. He said to Mr. H., "I presume I may 
address you in German, as I hear you are already well versed 
in our language." Mr. H. answered with a few polite words, 
and Goethe requested us to be seated. 

Mr. H.'s manners and appearance must have made a good 
impression on Goethe ; for his sweetness and mild serenity 
were manifested towards the stranger in their real beauty. 
"You did well," said he, "to come hither to learn German ; 
for here you will quickly and easily acquire, not only a 
knowledge of the language, but also of the elements on 
which it rests, our soil, climate, mode of life, manners, 
social habits, and constitution, and carry it away with you 
to England." 

Mr. H. replied, " The interest taken in the German 
language is now great, so that there is now scarcely a young 
EngHshman of good family who does not learn German." 

"We Germans," said Goethe, good-humouredly, "have, 
however, been half a century before your nation in this respect. 
For fifty years I have been busy with the English language 
and literature ; so that I am well acquainted with your 
writers, your ways of living, and the administration of your 
country. If I went over to England, I should be no stranger 
there. 

" But, as I said before, your young men do well to come 
to us and learn our language ; for, not only does our 
literature merit attention on its own account, but no one 
can deny that he who now knows German well can dispense 
with many other languages. Of the French, I do not speak ; 
it is the language of conversation, and is indispensable in 
travelling, because everybody understands it, and in all 
countries we can get on with it instead of a good interpreter. 
But as for Greek, Latin, Italian, and Spanish, we can read 
the best works of those nations in such excellent German 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



103 



translations, that, unless we have some particular object in 
view, we need not spend much time upon the toilsome study 
of those languages. It is in the German nature duly to 
honour after its kind, everything produced by other nations, 
and to accommodate itself to foreign peculiarities. This, 
with the great flexibility of our language, makes German 
translations thoroughly faithful and complete. And it is 
not to be denied that, in general, you get on very far with 
a good translation. Frederick the Great did not know 
Latin, but he read Cicero in the French translation with as 
much profit as we who read him in the original." 

Then, turning the conversation on the theatre, he asked 
Mr. H. whether he went frequently thither. " Every even- 
ing," he replied, " and find that I thus gain much towards 
the understanding of the language." 

"It is remarkable," said Goethe, "that the ear, and 
generally the understanding, gets the start of speaking ; so 
that a man may very soon comprehend all he hears, but by 
no means express it all." 

"I experience daily," said Mr. H., " the truth of that re- 
mark. I understand very well whatever I hear or read ; I 
even feel when an incorrect expression is made use of in 
German. But when I speak, nothing will flow, and I can- 
not express myself as I wish. In light conversation at court, 
jests with the ladies, a chat at balls, and the like, I succeed 
pretty well. But, if I try to express an opinion on any im- 
portant topic, to say anything peculiar or luminous, I cannot 
get on." 

" Be not discouraged by that," said Goethe, " since it is 
hard enough to express such uncommon matters in one's 
own mother tongue." 

He then asked what Mr. H. read in German literature. 
" I have read ' Egmont,' " he replied, " and found so much 
pleasure in the perusal, that I returned to it three times. 
' Torquato ^Tasso,' too, has afforded me much enjoyment. 
ISTow, I am reading 'Faust,' but find that it is somewhat 
difficult." 

Goethe laughed at these last words. " Really," said he, 
" I would not have advised you to undertake ' Faust.' It is 
mad stuff, and goes'quite beyond all ordinary feeling. But 
since you have done it of your own accord, without asking 



104 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



my advice, you will see how you will get through. Faust is 
so strange an individual, that only few can sympathize with 
his [internal condition. Then the character of Mephisto- 
philes is, on account of his irony, and also because he is a 
living result of an extensive acquaintance with the world, also 
very difficult. But you will see what lights open upon you. 
' Tasso,' on the other hand, lies far nearer the common 
feelings of mankind, and the elaboration of its form is 
favourable to an easy comprehension of it." 

" Yet," said Mr. H., "'Tasso ' is thought difficult in Ger- 
many, and people have wondered to hear me say that I was 
reading it." 

"What is chiefly needed for 'Tasso,'" replied Goethe, 
" is that one should be no longer a child, and should have 
been in good society. A young man of good family, with 
sufficient mind and delicacy, and also with enough outward 
culture, such as will be produced by intercourse with 
accomplished men of the higher class, will not find ' Tasso ' 
difficult." 

The conversation turning upon " Egmont," he said, 
"I wrote 'Egmont' in 1775, — fifty years ago. I ad- 
hered closely to history, and strove to be as accurate as 
possible. Ten years afterwards, when I was in Rome, I read 
in the newspapers that the revolutionary scenes in the 
Netherlands there described were exactly repeated. I saw 
from this that the world remains ever the same, and that 
my picture must have some life in it." 

Amid this and similar conversation, the hour for the 
theatre had come. We rose, and Goethe dismissed us in a 
friendly manner. 

As we went homeward, 1 asked Mr. H. how he was 
pleased with Goethe. " I have never," said he, " seen a 
man who, with all his attractive gentleness, had so much 
native dignity. However he may condescend, he is always 
the great man." 

Tues., Jan. 18. — I w r ent to Goethe about five o'clock. I 
had not seen him for some days, and passed a delightful 
evening. I found him sitting in his working-room, and 
talking, during the twilight, with his son and Hofrath 
Rehbein, his physician. I seated myself at the table with 
them. We talked a while in the dusk ; then lights were 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



105 



brought in, and I had the happiness to see Goethe looking 
perfectly fresh and cheerful. 

As usual, he inquired with interest what had happened 
to me of late, and I replied that I had made the acquaint- 
ance of a poetess. I was able at the same time, to praise 
her uncommon talent, and Goethe, who was likewise 
acquainted with some of her productions, agreed with my 
commendation. 

" One of her poems," said he, "in which she describes 
the country near her home, is of a highly peculiar character. 
She has a good tendancy towards outward objects, and is 
besides not destitute of valuable internal qualities. "We 
might indeed find much fault with her ; but we will let her 
alone, and not disturb her in the path which her talent will 
show her." 

The conversation now turned on poetesses in general ; 
Hofrath Rehbein remarked that the poetical talent of ladies 
often seemed to him as a sexual instinct of the intellect. 
" Hear him," said Goethe, laughing, and looking at me ; 
"sexual instinct, indeed ! how the physician explains it ! " 

" I know not," said Rehbein, " whether I express myself 
right ; but it is something of the sort. Usually, these beings 
have not been fortunate in love, and they now seek compen- 
sation in intellectual pursuits. Had they been married in 
time, and borne children, they would never have thought of 
poetical productions." 

"I will not inquire," said Goethe, "how far you are right 
in this case ; but, as to the talents of ladies in other depart- 
ments, I have always found that they ceased on marriage. 
I have known girls who drew finely ; but so soon as they 
became wives and mothers it was all over : they were busy 
with their children, and never touched a pencil. 

" But our poetesses," continued he, with much animation, 
" might write and poetize as they pleased if only our men 
would not write like women. This it is that does not please 
me. Look at our periodicals and annuals ; see how all 
becomes weaker and weaker. Were a chapter of Cellini now 
printed in the ' Morgenblatt,' what a figure it would make ! 

" However," he continued, in a lively manner, " let us 
forget all that, and rejoice in our brave girl at Halle, who 
with masculine spirit introduces us into the Servian world. 



106 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



These poems arc excellent. There are some among them 
worthy of a comparison with ' Solomon's Song,' and that is 
saying something. I have finished my essay on those 
poems, and it is already in type." With these words he 
showed me the first four proof-sheets of a new number of 
" Kunst und Alterthum," where I found the essay in 
question. " I have in a few words," said he, "characterized 
these poems according to their chief subjects, and I think 
you will be pleased with the valuable motives. Rehbein, 
too, is not ignorant of poetry — at least as to its import and 
material — and he may perhaps like to hear you read this 
aloud." 

I read slowly the subjects of the single poems. The 
situations indicated were so marked and expressive, that at 
each word [o> whole poem was revealed to my eye. The 
following appeared to me especially charming : — 

1. Modesty of a Servian girl, who never raises her 
beautiful eyelashes. 

2. Conflict in the mind of a lover, who, as groomsman, 
is obliged to conduct his beloved to another. 

3. Being distressed about her lover, the girl will not sing, 
lest she should seem gay. 

4. Complaint of the corruption of manners ; how youths 
marry widows, and old men virgins. 

5. Complaint of a youth that a mother gives her daughter 
too much liberty.. 

6. Confidingly joyous talk of a girl with the steed, who 
betrays to her his master's inclinations and designs. 

7. The maiden will not have him she cannot love. 

8. The fair bar-maid: her lover is not among the 
guests. 

9. Finding and tender awakening of the beloved. 

10. What trade shall my husband be ? 

11. Joys of love lost by babbling. 

12. The lover comes from abroad, watches her by day, 
surprises her at night. 

I remarked that these mere motives excited in me such 
lively emotions, that I felt as if I were reading the poems 
themselves, and had no desire for the details. 

"You are quite right," said Goethe, "so it is ; and here 
you see the great importance of motives, which no one will 



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107 



understand. Our women have no notion of it. * That 
poem is beautiful,' they say, and by this they mean nothing 
but the feelings, the words, the verses. ISTo one dreams 
that the true power of a poem consists in the situation, — in 
the motives* And for this very reason, thousands of poems 
are written, where the motive is nothing at all, and which 
merely through feeling and sounding verse reflect a sort of 
existence. Dilettanti, and especially women, have very 
weak ideas of poetry. They usually think, if they could but 
get quit of the technical part, they would have the essential, 
and would be quite accomplished; but they are much 
mistaken." 

Professor Riemer was announced, Rehbein took leave, 
and Riemer sat down with us. The conversation still 
turned on the motives of the Servian love-poems. Riemer 
was acquainted with the topic, and made the remark, that 
according to the table of contents given above, not only 
could poems be made, but that the same motives had been 
already used by the Germans, without any knowledge that 
they had been treated in Servia. He mentioned some 
poems of his own, and I mentioned some poems by Goethe, 
which had occurred to me during the reading. 

" The world," said Goethe, " remains always the same ; 
situations are repeated ; one people lives, loves, and feels 
like another ; why should not one poet write like another ? 
The situations of life are alike ; why, then, should those of 
poems be unlike ? " 

" This very similarity in life and sensation," said Riemer, 
" makes us all able to appreciate the poetry of other 
nations. If this were not the case, we should never know 
what foreign poems were about." 

* This "motive" (German, motiv) is a very difficult and unmanage- 
able word, and like many words of the sort does not seem always to pre. 
serve the same meaning. According to the definition of lexicographers, 
the German expression is almost the same as the English one, and a 
poem is said to be well "motived" (motivirt) when it is well 
organized as a whole, — that is to say, when there is a sufficient motive 
for the different effects produced. But in the passage above, 
"motive " seems rather to mean "theme" for a poem, and it will 
be remembered that "motive " has that sense in music. Wherever 
motiv occurs it will be represented by motive in italics, and the reader 
will do his best to understand it from the context. — Trans. 



108 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l82 5 . 



"I am, therefore," said I, "always surprised at the 
learned, who seem to suppose that poetizing proceeds not 
from life to the poem, but from the book to the poem. 
They are always saying, ' He got this here ; he got that 
there.' If, for instance, they find passages in Shakspeare 
which are also to be found in the ancients, they say he 
must have taken them from the ancients. Thus there is a 
situation in Shakspeare, where, on the sight of a beautiful 
girl, the parents are congratulated who call her daughter, 
and the youth who will lead her home as his bride. And 
because the same thing occurs in Homer, Shakspeare, for- 
sooth, has taken it from Homer. How odd ! As if one 
had to go so far for such things, and did not have them 
before one's eyes, feel them and utter them every day." 

"Ah, yes," said Goethe, "it is very ridiculous." 

" Lord Byron, too," said I, " is no wiser, when he takes 
'Faust' to pieces, and thinks you found one thing here, the 
other there." 

" The greater part of those fine things cited by Lord 
Byron," said Goethe, " I have never even read, much less 
did I think of them, when I was writing ' Faust.' But 
Lord Byron is only great as a poet ; as soon as he reflects, 
he is a child. He knows not how to help himself against 
the stupid attacks of the same kind made upon him by his 
own countrymen. He ought to have expressed himself 
more strongly against them. ' What is there is mine,' he 
should have said, ' and whether I got it from a book or 
from life, is of no consequence ; the only point is, whether 
I have made a right use of it.' Walter Scott used a scene 
from my ' Egmont,' and he had a right to do so ; and 
because he did it well, he deserves praise. He has also 
copied the character of my Mignon in one of his romances ; 
but whether with equal judgment, is another question. 
Lord Byron's transformed Devil* is a continuation of 
Mephistophiles, and quite right too. If, from the whim of 
originality, he had departed from the model, he would cer- 
tainly have fared worse. Thus, my Mephistophiles sings a 

* This, doubtless, means the " Deformed Transformed," and the 
fact that this poem was not published till January, 1824, rendering 
it probable that Goethe had not actually seen it, accounts for the 
inaccuracy of the expression. — Trans. 



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109 



song from Shakspeare, and why should he not ? Why 
should I give myself the trouble of inventing one of my 
own, when this said just what was wanted. If, too, the 
prologue to my ' Faust ' is something like the beginning of 
Job, that is again quite right, and I am rather to be praised 
than censured." 

Goethe was in the best humour. He sent for a bottle of 
wine, and filled for Riemer and me ; he himself drank 
Marienbad water. He seemed to have appointed this 
evening for looking over, with Biemer, the manuscript 
of the continuation of his autobiography, perhaps in order 
to improve it here and there, in point of expression. " Let 
Eckermann stay and hear it too," said Goethe ; which 
words I was very glad to hear, and he then laid the manu- 
script before E-iemer, who began to read, commencing with 
the year 1795. 

I had already, in the course of the summer, had the 
pleasure of repeatedly reading and reflecting on the still 
unpublished record of those years, down to the latest time. 
But now to hear them read aloud in Goethe's presence, 
afforded quite a new enjoyment. Riemer paid especial 
attention to the mode of expression ; and I had occasion to 
admire his great dexterity, and his affluence of words and 
phrases. But in Goethe's mind the epoch of life described 
was revived ; he revelled in recollections, and on the 
mention of single persons and events, filled out the written 
narrative by the details he orally gave us. That was a 
precious evening ! The most distinguished of his contem- 
poraries were talked over; but the conversation always 
came back to Schiller, who was so interwoven with this 
period, from 1795 to 1800. The theatre had been the 
object of their united efforts, and Goethe's best works 
belong to this time. " Wilhelm Meister " was completed ; 
" Hermann und Dorothea" planned and written; " Cellini" 
translated for the "Horen;" the "Xenien" written by 
both for Schiller's " Musenalmanach ;" — every day brought 
with it points of contact. Of all this we talked this 
evening, and Goethe had full opportunity for the most 
interesting communications. 

'"Hermann und Dorothea,'" said he, "is almost the 
only one of my larger poems which still satisfies me ; I can 



110 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[.825. 



never read it without strong interest. I love it best in the 
Latin translation ; there it seems to me nobler, and as if it 
had returned to its original form." 

"Wilhelm Meister" was often a subject of discourse. 
" Schiller blamed me for interweaving tragic elements 
which do not belong to the novel. Yet he was wrong, as 
we all know. In his letters to me, there are most im- 
portant views and opinions with respect to ' Wilhelm 
Meister.' But this work is one of the most incalculable 
productions ; I myself can scarcely be said to have the key 
to it. People seek a central point, and that is hard, and 
not even right. I should think a rich manifold life, brought 
close to our eyes, would be enough in itself, without any 
express tendency, which, after all, is only for the intellect. 
But if anything of the sort is insisted upon, it will perhaps 
be found in the words which Frederic, at the end, addresses 
to the hero, when he says, — ' Thou seem'st to me like Saul, 
the son of Kish, who went out to seek his father's asses, 
and found a kingdom.' Keep only to this ; for, in fact, the 
whole work seems to say nothing more than that man, 
despite all his follies and errors, being led by a higher 
hand, reaches some happy goal at last." 

We then talked of the high degree of culture which, 
during the last fifty years, had become general among the 
middle classes of Germany, and Goethe ascribed the merit of 
this not so much to Lessing as to Herder and Wieland. 
" Lessing," said he, "was of the very highest understanding, 
and only one equally great could truly learn of him. To a 
half faculty he was dangerous." He mentioned a jour- 
nalist who had formed himself on Lessing, and at the 
end of the last century had played a part indeed, but far 
from a noble one, because he was so inferior to his great 
predecessor. 

" All Upper Germany," said he, " is indebted to Wieland 
for its style. It has learned much from him; and the 
capability of expressing itself correctly is not the least." 

On mentioning the "Xenien,"* he especially praised those 
of Schiller, which he called sharp and biting, while he 
called his own innocent and trivial. 

* It need scarcely be mentioned that this is the name given to a col- 
lection of sarcastic epigrams by Goethe and Schiller.— Trans. 



1825.] 



CONVEESATIONS OF GOETHE. 



Ill 



" The ' Thierkreis' (Zodiac), winch is by Schiller," said 
he, " I always read with admiration. The good effects 
which the 'Xenien' had upon the German literature of 
their time are beyond calculation. " Many persons against 
whom the "Xenien" were directed, were mentioned on this 
occasion, but their names have escaped my memory. 

After we had read and talked over the manuscript to the 
end of the year 1800, interrupted by these and innumerable 
other observations from Goethe, he put aside the papers, 
and had a little supper placed at one end of the table at 
which we were sitting. We partook of it, but Goethe did 
not touch a morsel ; indeed, I have never seen him eat in 
the evening. He sat down with us, filled our glasses, 
snuffed the candles, and intellectually regaled us with the 
most agreeable conversation. His remembrance of Schiller 
was so lively, that the conversation during the latter part of 
the evening was devoted to him alone. 

Biemer spoke of Schiller's personal appearance. " The 
build of his limbs, his gait in the street, all his motions," 
said he, " were proud ; his eyes only were soft." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " everything else about him was 
proud and majestic, only the eyes were soft. And his talent 
was like his outward form. He seized boldly on a great 
subject, and turned it this way and that, and handled it this 
way and that. But he saw his object, as it were, only in the 
outside ; a quiet development from its interior was not within 
his province. His talent was desultory. Thus he was never 
decided — could never have done. He often changed a part 
just before a rehearsal. 

"And, as he went so boldly to work, he did not .take suf- 
ficient pains about motives. I recollect what trouble I had 
with him, when he wanted to make Gessler, in 'Tell,' 
abruptly break an apple from the tree, and have it shot 
from the boy's head. This was quite against my nature, 
and I urged him to give at least some motive to this bar- 
barity, by making the boy boast to Gessler of his father's 
dexterity, and say that he could shoot an apple from a tree 
at a hundred paces. Schiller, at first, would have nothing 
of the sort : but at last he yielded to my arguments and 
intentions, and did as I advised him. I, on the other hand, 
by too great attention to motives, kept my pieces from the 



112 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1825. 

theatre. My ' Eugenie ' * is nothing but a chain of motives, 
and this cannot succeed on the stage. 

" Schiller's genius was really made for the theatre. With 
every piece he progressed, and became more finished ; but, 
strange to say, a certain love for the horrible adhered to 
him from the time of the ' Robbers,' which never quite left 
him even in his prime. I still recollect perfectly well, that 
in the prison scene in my £ Bgmont,' where the sentence is 
read to him, Schiller would have made Alva appear in the 
background, masked and muffled in a cloak, enjoying the 
effect which the sentence would produce on Egmont. Thus 
Alva was to show himself insatiable in revenge and malice. 
I, however, protested, and prevented the apparition. He 
was a great, odd man. 

" Every week he became different and more finished; each 
time that I saw him, he seemed to me to have advanced in 
learning and judgment. His letters are [the fairest me- 
morials of him which I possess, and they are also among 
the most excellent of his writings. His last letter I preserve 
as a sacred relic, among my treasures." He rose and fetched 
it. " See and read it," said he, giving it to me. 

It was a very fine letter, written in a bold hand. It con- 
tained an opinion of Goethe's notes to " Rameau's Nephew," 
which exhibit French literature at that time, and which he 
had given Schiller to look over. I read the letter aloud 
to Riemer. "You see," said Goethe, "how apt and con- 
sistent is his judgment, and that the handwriting nowhere 
betrays any trace of weakness. He was a splendid man, 
and went from us in all the fulness of his strength. This 
letter is dated the 24th of April, 1805. Schiller died on 
the 9th of May." 

We looked at the letter by turns, and were pleased both 
with the clear style and the fine handwriting. Goethe 
bestowed several other words of affectionate reminiscence 
upon his friend, until it was nearly eleven o'clock, and we 
departed. 

Thurs., Feb. 24. — "If I were still superintendent of the 
theatre," said Goethe, this evening, "I would bring out 
Byron's ' Doge of Venice.' The piece is indeed long, and 



* "Die Natiirliche Tochter"(the Natural Daughter).— Trans. 



1825.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



113 



would require shortening. Nothing, however, should be cut 
out, but the import of each scene should be taken, and ex- 
pressed more concisely. The piece would thus be brought 
closer together, without being damaged by alterations, 
and it would gain a powerful effect, without any essential 
loss of beauty." 

This opinion of Goethe's gave me a new view as to how 
we might proceed on the stage, in a hundred similar cases, 
and I was highly pleased with such a maxim, which, how- 
ever, presupposes a fine intellect — nay, a poet, who under- 
stands his vocation. 

We talked more about Lord Byron, and I mentioned 
how, in his conversations with Medwin, he had said there 
was something extremely difficult and unthankful in wn ting 
for the theatre. " The great point is," said Goethe, " for 
the poet to strike into the path which the taste and interest 
of the public have taken. If the direction of his talent 
accords with that of the public, everything is gained. 
Houwald hit this path with his Bild (picture), and hence 
the universal applause he received. Lord Byron, perhaps, 
would not have been so fortunate, inasmuch as his tendency 
varied from that of the public. The greatness of the poet 
is by no means the important matter. On the contrary, 
one who is little elevated above the general public may 
often gain the most general favour precisely on that 
account." 

We continued to converse about Byron, and Goethe 
admired his extraordinary talent. " That which I call 
invention," said he, " I never saw in any one in the world, 
to a greater degree than in him. His manner of loosing a 
dramatic knot is always better than one would anticipate." 

"That," said I, "is what I feel about Shakspeare, 
especially when Falstaff has entangled himself in such a 
net of falsehoods, and I ask myself what I should do to 
help him out ; for I find that Shakspeare surpasses all my 
notions. That you say the same of Lord Byron, is the 
highest praise that can be bestowed on him. Neverthe- 
less," I added, "the poet who takes a clear survey of 
beginning and end, has, by far, the advantage with the 
biassed reader." 

Goethe agreed with me, and laughed to think that Lord 

i 



114 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



Byron, who, in practical life, could never adapt himself, 
and never even asked about a law, finally subjected himself 
to the stupidest of laws — that of the three unities. 

" He understood the purpose of this law," said he, " no 
better than the rest of the world. Comprehensibility * is 
the purpose, and the three unities are only so far good as 
they conduce to this end. If the observance of them 
hinders the comprehension of a work, it is foolish to treat 
them as laws, and to try to observe them. Even the 
Greeks, from whom the rule was taken, did not always 
follow it. In the ' Phaeton ' of Euripides, and in other 
pieces, there is a change of place, and it is obvious that 
good representation of their subject was with them more 
important than blind obedience to law, which, in itself, is 
of no great consequence. The pieces of Shakspeare 
deviate, as far as possible, from the unities of time and 
place ; but they are comprehensible — nothing more so — and 
on this account, the Greeks would have found no fault in 
them. The French poets have endeavoured to follow most 
rigidly the laws of the three unities, but they sin against 
comprehensibility, inasmuch as they solve a dramatic law, 
not dramatically, but by narration." 

" I call to mind the ' Feinde ' (enemies) of Houwald. 
The author of this drama stood much in his own light, 
when, to preserve the unity of place, he sinned against 
comprehensibility in the first act, and altogether sacrificed 
what might have given greater effect to his piece to a 
whim, for which no one thanks him. I thought, too, on 
the other hand, of ' Goetz von Berhchingen,' which 
deviates as far as possible from the unity of time and 
place ; but which, as everything is visibly developed to us, 
and brought before our eyes, is as truly dramatic and com- 
prehensible as any piece in the world. I thought, too, that 
the unities of time and place were natural, and in accord- 
ance with the intention of the Greeks, only when a subject 
is so limited in its range that it can develop itself before 
our eyes with all its details in the given time ; but that 

* We unwillingly adopt this uncouth word as the equivalent for 
"das Fassliche." The American translator uses the -word " illusion," 
but this would he rather a result of "das Fassliche " than the thing 
itself. — Trans. 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



115 



with, a large action, which occurs in several places, there is no 
reason to be confined to one place, especially as our present 
stage arrangements offer no obstacle to a change of scene." 

Groethe continued to talk of Lord Byron. "With that 
disposition," said he, " which always leads him into the 
illimitable, the restraint which he imposed upon himself by 
the observance of the three unities becomes him Tery well. 
If he had but known how to endure moral restraint also ! 
That he could not was his ruin ; and it may be aptly said, 
that he was destroyed by his own unbridled temperament. 

"But he was too much in the dark about himself. He 
lived inrpetuously for the day, and neither knew nor 
thought what he was doing. Permitting everything to 
himself, and excusing nothing in others, he necessarily put 
himself in a bad position, and made the world his foe. 
At the very beginning, he offended the most distinguished 
literary men by his ' English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.' 
To be permitted only to live after this, he was obliged to 
go back a step. In his succeeding works, he continued in 
the path of opposition and fault-finding. Church and 
State were not left unassailed. This reckless conduct drove 
him from England, and would in time have driven him 
from Europe also. Everywhere it was too narrow for him, 
and with the most perfect personal freedom he felt himself 
confined ; the world seemed to him a prison. His Grecian 
expedition was the result of no voluntary resolution ; his 
misunderstanding with the world drove him to it. 

" The renunciation of what was hereditary and patriotic 
not only caused the personal destruction of so distinguished 
a man, but his revolutionary turn, and the constant mental 
agitation with which, it was combined, did not allow his 
talent a fair development. Moreover, his perpetual nega- 
tion and fault-finding is injurious even to his excellent 
works. For not only does the discontent of the poet infect 
the reader, but the end of all opposition is negation ; and 
negation is nothing. If I call had bad, what do I gain ? 
But if I call good bad, I do a great deal of mischief. He 
who will work aright must never rail, must not trouble 
himself at all about what is ill done, but only to do well 
himself. For the great point is, not to pull down, but to 
build up, and in this humanity finds pure joy." 

i 2 



116 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[l82 5 . 



I was delighted with these noble words, and this valu- 
able maxim. 

" Lord Byron," continued Goethe, " is to be regarded as 
a man, as an Englishman, and as a great talent. His good 
qualities belong chiefly to the man, his bad to the English- 
man and the peer, his talent is incommensurable. 

"All Englishmen are, as such, without reflection, properly 
so called ; distractions and party spirit will not permit 
them to perfect themselves in quiet. But they are great as 
practical men. 

"Thus, Lord Byron could never attain reflection on 
himself, and on this account his maxims in general are not 
successful, as is shown by his creed, 'much money, no 
authority,' for much money always paralyzes authority. 

" But where he will create he always succeeds ; and we 
may truly say that with him inspiration supplies the place 
of reflection. He was always obliged to go on poetizing, 
and then everything that came from the man, especially 
from his heart, was excellent. He produced his best things, 
as women do pretty children, without thinking about it or 
knowing how it was done. 

" He is a great talent, a born talent, and I never saw the 
true poetical power greater in any man than in him. In 
the apprehension of external objects, and a clear pene- 
tration into past situations, he is quite as great as 
Shakspeare. But as a pure individuality, Shakspeare is 
his superior. This was felt by Byron, and on this account 
he does not say much of Shakspeare, although he knows 
whole passages by heart. He would willingly have denied 
him altogether ; for Shakspeare's cheerfulness is in his way, 
and he feels that he is no match for it. Pope he does not 
deny, for he had no cause to fear him. On the contrary, 
he mentions him, and shows him respect when he can, 
for he knows well enough that Pope is a mere foil to 
himself." 

Goethe seems inexhaustible on the subject of Byron, and 
I felt that I could not listen enough. After a few 
digressions, he proceeded thus : — 

" His high rank as an English peer was very injurious to 
Byron ; for every talent is oppressed by the outer world, — 
how much more, then, when there is such high birth and 



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117 



so great a fortune. A certain middle rank is much more 
favourable to talent, on which account we find all great 
artists and poets in the middle classes. Byron's pre- 
dilection for the unbounded could not have been nearly 
so dangerous with more humble birth and smaller means. 
But as it was, he was able to put every fancy into practice, 
and this involved him in innumerable scrapes. Besides, 
how could one of such high rank be inspired with awe and 
respect by any rank whatever ? He spoke out whatever he 
felt, and this brought him into ceaseless conflict with the 
world. 

"It is surprising to remark," continued Goethe, "how 
large a portion of the life of a rich Englishman of rank 
is passed in duels and elopements. Lord Byron himself 
says that his father carried off three ladies. And let any 
man be a steady son after that. 

"Properly speaking, he lived perpetually in a state of 
nature, and with his mode of existence the necessity for 
self-defence floated daily before his eyes. Hence his 
constant pistol shooting. Every moment he expected to 
be called out. 

" He could not live alone. Hence, with all his oddities, 
he was very indulgent to his associates. He one evening 
read his fine poem on the death of Sir John Moore, and 
his noble friends did not know what to make of it. This 
did not move him, but he put it away again. As a poet, he 
really showed himself a lamb. Another would have com- 
mended them to the devil." 

(Sup.) Tues. Mar. 22. — Last night, soon after twelve 
o'clock, we were awoke by an alarm of fire ; we heard cries, 
" The theatre is on fire ! " I at once threw on my clothes, 
and hastened to the spot. The universal consternation was 
very great. Only a few hours before we had been delighted 
with the excellent acting of La Roche in Cumberland's 
"Jew," and Seidel had excited universal laughter by his 
good humour and jokes. And now, in the place so lately 
the scene of intellectual pleasures, raged the most terrible 
element of destruction. 

The fire, which was occasioned by the heating apparatus, 
appears to have broken out in the pit ; it soon spread to the 
stage and the dry lath-work of the wings, and, as it fear- 



118 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



fully increased by the great quantity of combustible 
material, it was not long before the flames burst through 
the roof, and the rafters gave way. 

There was no deficiency of preparations for extinguishing 
the fire. The building was, by degrees, surrounded by 
engines, which poured an immense quantity of water upon 
the flames. All, however, was without avail. The flames 
raged upwards as before, and threw up to the dark sky an 
inexhaustible mass of glowing sparks and burning particles 
of light materials, which then, with a light breeze, passed 
sideways over the town. The noise of the cries and calls 
of the men working the fire-ladders and engines was very 
great. All seemed determined to subdue the flames. On 
one side, as near to the spot as the fire allowed, stood a man 
in a cloak and military cap, smoking a cigar with the 
greatest composure. At the first glance, he appeared to be 
an idle spectator, but such was not the case. There were 
several persons to whom, in a few words, he gave com- 
mands, which were immediately executed. It was the 
Grand Duke Charles Augustus. He had soon seen that 
the building itself could not be saved ; he, therefore, 
ordered that it should be left to fall, and that all the 
superfluous engines should be turned upon the neigh- 
bouring houses, which were much exposed to the fire. 
He appeared to think with princely resignation- — 
" Let that burn down, 
With greater beauty will it rise again." 
He was not wrong. The theatre was old, by no means 
beautiful ; and for a long time, it had ceased to be roomy 
enough to accommodate the annually increasing public. 
Nevertheless, it was lamentable to see this building thus 
irreparably destroyed, with which so many reminiscences of 
a past time, illustrious and endeared to "Weimar, were 
connected. 

I saw in beautiful eyes many tears, which flowed for 
its downfall. I was no less touched by the grief of a 
member of the orchestra. He wept for his burnt violin. 
As the day dawned, I saw many pale countenances. I 
remarked several young girls and women of high rank, 
who had awaited the event of the fire during the whole 
night, and who now shivered in the cold morning air. I 



1825.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



119 



returned home to take a little rest, and in the conrse of the 
forenoon I called npon Goethe. 

The servant told me that he was nnwell and in bed. 
Still Goethe had ine called to his side 1 . He stretched out 
his hand to me. " We have all sustained a loss," said he ; 
" what is to be done ? My little Wolf came early this 
morning to my bed-side. He seized my hand, and looking 
full at me, said, ' so it is with human things' What more 
can be said, than these words of my beloved Wolf's, with 
which he sought to comfort me ? The theatre, the scene 
of my love-labours for nearly thirty years, lies in ashes. 
But, as Wolf says, ' so it is with human things.' I have 
slept but little during the night ; from my front windows, 
I saw the flames incessantly rising towards the sky. 

" You can imagine that many thoughts of old times, of 
my many years' exertions with Schiller, and of the progress 
of many a favourite pupil, passed through my mind, and 
not without causing some emotion. Hence, I intend wisely 
to remain in bed to-day." 

I praised him for his forethought. Still he did not 
appear to me in the least weak or exhausted, but in a very 
pleasant and serene mood. This lying in bed seemed to me 
to be an old stratagem of war, which he is accustomed to 
adopt on any extraordinary event, when he fears a crowd 
of visitors. 

Goethe begged me to be seated on a chair before his bed, 
and to stay there a little time. " I have thought much of 
you, and pitied you," said he. " What will you do with 
your evenings now ? " 

" You know," returned I, "how passionately I love the 
theatre. When I came here, two years ago, I knew nothing 
at all, except three or four pieces which I had seen in 
Hanover. 

"All was new to me, actors as well as pieces ; and since, 
according to your advice, I have given myself up entirely to 
the impression of the subject, without much thinking or 
reflecting, I can say with truth, that I have, during these 
two winters, passed at the theatre the most harmless and 
most agreeable hours that I have ever known. I was, more- 
over, so infatuated with the theatre, that I not only 
missed no performance, but also obtained admission to the 



120 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



rehearsals ; nay, not contented with this, if, as I passed in 
the day-time, I chanced to find the doors open, I would 
enter, and sit for half an hour upon the empty benches in 
the pit, and imagine scenes which might at some time be 
played there." 

"You are a madman," returned Goethe, laughing ; " but 
that is what I like. Would to God that the whole public 
consisted of such children ! And in fact you are right. 
Any one who is sufficiently young, and who is not quite 
spoiled, could not easily find any place that would suit him 
so well as a theatre. No one asks you any questions : you 
need not open your mouth unless you choose ; on the contrary, 
you sit quite at your ease like a king, and let everything 
pass before you, and recreate your mind and senses to your 
heart's content. There is poetry, there is painting, there 
are singing and music, there is acting, and what not besides. 
When all these arts, and the charm of youth and beauty 
heightened to an important degree, work in concert on the 
same evening, it is a bouquet to which no other can compare. 
But, even when part is bad and part is good, it is still better 
than looking out of the window, or playing a game at whist in 
a close party amid the smoke of cigars. The theatre at 
Weimar is, as you feel, by no means to be despised ; it is 
still an old trunk from our best time, to which new talents 
have attached themselves ; and we can still produce some- 
thing which charms and pleases, and at least gives the 
appearance of an organized whole." 

" Would I had seen it twenty or thirty years ago," 
answered I. " That was certainly a time," replied Goethe, 
" when we were assisted by great advantages. Consider 
that the tedious period of the French taste had not long 
gone by ; that the public was not yet spoiled by over-excite- 
ment ; that the influence of Shakspeare was in all its first 
freshness ; that the operas of Mozart were new ; and lastly, 
that the pieces of Schiller were first produced here year 
after year, and were given at the theatre of Weimar in all 
their first glory, under his own superintendence. Consider 
all this, I say, and you will imagine that, with such dishes, 
a fine banquet was given to old and young, and that we 
always had a grateful public." 

I remarked, " Older persons, who lived in those times, 



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121 



cannot praise highly enough the elevated position winch the 
"Weimar theatre then held." 

" I will not deny that it was something," returned Goethe. 
" The main point, however, was this, that the Grand Duke 
left my hands quite free, and I could do just as I liked. I 
did not look to magnificent scenery, and a brilliant ward- 
robe, but I looked to good pieces. From tragedy to farce, 
every species was welcome ; but a piece was obliged to have 
something in it to find favour. It was necessary that it 
should be great and clever, cheerful and graceful, and, at all 
events, healthy and containing some pith. All that was 
morbid, weak, lachrymose, and sentimental, as well as all 
that was frightful, horrible, and offensive to decorum, was 
utterly excluded ; I should have feared, by such expedients, 
to spoil both actors and audience. 

" By means of good pieces, I raised the actors ; for the 
study of excellence, and the perpetual practice of excellence, 
must necessarily make something of a man whom nature 
has not left ungifted. I was, also, constantly in personal 
contact with the actors. I attended the first rehearsals,* 
and explained to every one his part ; I was present at the 
chief rehearsals, and talked with the actors as to any 
improvements that might be made ; I was never absent 
from a performance, and pointed out the next day anything 
which did not appear to me to be right. 

" By these means I advanced them in their art. 

<{ But I also sought to raise the whole class in the esteem 
of society, by introducing the best and most promising into 
my own circle, and thus showing to the world that I con- 
sidered them worthy of social intercourse with myself. The 
result of this was, that |the rest of the higher society in 
Weimar did not remain behind me, and that actors and 
actresses gained soon an honourable admission into the best 
circles. By all this, they acquired a great internal as well 
as external culture. My scholar Wolff, in Berlin, and our 
Diirand, are people of the finest tact in society. Oels and 
Graff have enough of the higher order of culture to do 
honour to the best circles. 

* The word " Leseprobe," which is here used, answers exactly to 
the English stage technicality — the " reading." The chief rehearsals, 
" Haupt proben," are by us simply called " rehearsals." — Trans. 



122 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



" Scliiller proceeded in the same spirit as myself. He had 
a great deal of intercourse with actors and actresses. He, 
like me, was present at every rehearsal; and after every 
successful performance of one of his pieces, it was his custom 
to invite the actors, and to spend a merry day with them. 
All rejoiced together at that which had succeeded, and dis- 
cussed how anything might be done better next time. But 
even when Schiller joined us, he found both actors and the 
public already cultivated to a high degree ; and it is 
not to be denied that this conduced to the rapid success of 
his pieces." 

It gave me great pleasure to hear Goethe speak so cir- 
cumstantially upon a subject which always possessed great 
interest for me, and which, in consequence of the mis- 
fortune of the previous night, was uppermost in my mind. 

" This burning of the house," said I, "in which you and 
Schiller, during a long course of years, effected so much 
good, in some degree closes a great epoch, which will not 
soon return for Weimar. You must at that time have ex- 
perienced great pleasure in your direction of the theatre, 
and its extraordinary success." 

" And not a little trouble and difficulty," returned Goethe, 
with a sigh. 

"It must be difficult," said I, "to keep such a many- 
lieaded being in proper order." 

" A great deal," said Goethe, "may be done by severity, 
more by love, but most by clear discernment and impartial 
justice, which pays no respect to persons. 

. " I had to beware of two enemies, which might have been 
dangerous to me. The one was my passionate love of talent, 
which might easily have made me partial. The other I 
will not mention, but you can guess it. At our theatre 
there was no want of ladies, who were beautiful and young, 
and who were possessed of great mental charms. I felt a 
passionate inclination towards many of them, and sometimes 
it happened that I was met half way. But I restrained 
myself, and said, No further! I knew my position, and 
also what I owed to it. I stood here, not as a private man, 
but as chief of an establishment, the prosperity of which 
was of more consequence to me than a momentary gratifi- 
cation. If I had involved myself in any love affair, I should 



I82 5 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



123 



have been like a compass, which cannot point right when 
under the influence of a magnet at its side. 

" By thns keeping myself quite clear, and always re- 
maining master of myself, I also remained master of the 
theatre, and I always received that proper respect, without 
which all authority is very soon at an end." 

This confession of Goethe's deeply impressed me. I had 
already heard something of this kind about him from others, 
and I rejoiced now to hear its confirmation from his own 
mouth. I loved him more than ever, and took leave of him 
with a hearty pressure of the hand. 

I returned to the scene of the fire, where flames and 
columns of smoke were rising from the great heap of ruins. 
People were still occupied in extinguishing and pulling to 
pieces. I found near the spot a burnt fragment of a written 
part. It contained passages from Goethe's " Tasso." 

(Sup.) Thurs., Mar. 24. — I dined with Goethe. The loss 
of the theatre was almost the exclusive, subject of conver- 
sation. Frau von Goethe and Fraulein Ulrica recalled to 
mind the happy hours they had enjoyed in the old house. 
They had been seeking some relics from amongst the rub- 
bish, which they considered invaluable ; but which were, 
after all, nothing but stones and burnt pieces of carpet. 
Still, these pieces were from the precise spot in the balcony 
where they had been used to sit. 

" The principal thing is," said Goethe, "to recover oneself, 
and get in order as soon as possible. I should like the per- 
formances to recommence next week, in the palace or in the 
great town-hall, no matter which. Too long a pause must 
not be allowed, lest the public should seek some other 
resource for its tedious evenings." 

" But," it was observed, " there are scarcely any of the 
decorations saved." 

" There is no need of much decoration," returned Goethe. 
"Neither is there a necessity for great pieces. It is not 
even necessary to perform whole pieces at all, much less a 
great whole. 

" The main point is, to choose something in which no 
great "change of scene takes place. Perhaps a one act 
comedy, or a one act farce, or operetta. Then, perhaps, 
some air, duet, or finale, from a favourite opera, and you 



124 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



will be very passably entertained. We have only to get 
tolerably through. April, for in May yon have the songsters 
of the woods. 

" In the mean time," continued Goethe, " yon will, during 
the summer months, witness the spectacle of the rearing of 
a new house. This fire appears to me very remarkable. I 
will now confess to you, that, during the long winter even- 
ings, I have occupied myself with Courdray, in drawing the 
plan of a new handsome theatre suitable to Weimar. 

" We had sent for the ground-plans and sections of some 
of the principal German theatres, and by taking what was 
best, and avoiding what appeared defective, we accom- 
plished a sketch which will be worth looking at. As soon 
as the Grand Duke gives permission, the building may be 
commenced, and it is no trifle that this accident found us so 
wonderfully prepared." 

We received this intelligence of Goethe's with great joy. 

" In the old house," continued Goethe, " the nobility 
were accommodated in the balcony, and the servants and 
young artisans in the gallery. The greater number of the 
wealthy and genteel middle class were not well provided 
for; for when, at the performance of certain pieces, the 
students occupied the pit, these respectable persons did not 
know where to go. The few small boxes behind the pit, 
and the few stalls, were not sufficient. Now we have 
managed much better. We have a whole tier of boxes 
running round the pit, and another tier, of the second rank, 
between the balcony and the gallery. 

" By these means we gain a great many places, without 
enlarging the house too much." 

We rejoiced at this communication, and praised Goethe 
for his kind consideration of the theatre and the public. 

In order to lend my share of assistance to the future 
theatre, I went, after dinner, with my friend Robert Doolan, 
to Upper Weimar, and over a cup of coffee at the inn, began 
to make the libretto of an opera, after the " Issipile " of 
Metastasio. The first thing was to write a programme, so 
as to cast the piece with all the favourite singers, male and 
female, belonging to the Weimar theatre. This gave us 
great pleasure. It was almost as if we were again seated 
before the orchestra. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



125 



We then set to work in good earnest, and finished a great 
part of the first act. 

(Sup.) Sun., Mar. 27.— I dined at Goethe's with a large 
party. He showed ns the design for the new theatre. It 
was as he had told ns a few days ago ; the plan promised a 
very beautiful building, both externally and internally. 

It was remarked that so pretty a theatre required 
beautiful decorations, and better costumes than the former 
one. We were also of opinion that the company had 
gradually become incomplete, and that some distinguished 
young members should be engaged, both for the drama and 
the opera. At the same time, we did not shut our eyes to 
the fact that all this would be attended with great expense, 
which the present state of the treasury would not allow. 

" I know very well," said Goethe, "that under pretext of 
sparing the treasury, some insignificant persons will be en- 
gaged who will not cost much. But we cannot expect to 
benefit the treasury by such means. 

" Nothing injures the treasury more than the endeavour 
to save in such essential matters. Our aim must be, to 
have a full house every evening. And a young singer, 
male or female, a clever hero, and a clever young heroine of 
distinguished talents and some beauty, will do much towards 
this end. Ay, if I still stood at the head of the direction, I 
would now go a step farther for the benefit of the treasury, 
and you would perceive that I should not be without the 
money required." 

Goethe was asked what he meant by this. 

"I would employ very simple means," returned he. " 1 
would have performances on Sundays. I should thus have 
the receipts of at least forty more evenings, and it would be 
hard if the treasury did not thus gain ten or fifteen thousand 
dollars a year." 

This expedient was thought very practical. It was men- 
tioned, that to the great working-class, who are usually 
occupied until late at night on week days, Sunday is the 
only day of recreation, wben they would prefer the more 
noble pleasures of a play to a dance, with beer, at a village 
inn. It was also the general opinion, that all the farmers 
and land-owners, as well as the officials and wealthy inha- 
bitants of the small towns in the neighbourhood, would 



126 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1825. 

consider the Sunday as a desirable day to go to the theatre 
at Weimar. Besides, at the present time, a Sunday evening 
at Weimar was very dreary and tedious for every one who 
did not go to court, or was not a member of a happy family 
circle, or a select society ; since isolated individuals did not 
know where to go. And still people said that there ought 
to be some place where they might, on a Sunday evening, 
be comfortable, and forget the annoyances of the week. 

Goethe's idea of permitting Sunday performances, ac- 
cording to the custom in all other German towns, received 
perfect approbation, and was greeted as a very happy one. 
Only a slight doubt arose, as to whether the court would 
approve of it. 

"The court of Weimar," returned Goethe, "is too good 
and too wise to oppose any regulation which would con- 
duce to the benefit of the town and an important institu- 
tion. The court will certainly make the small sacrifice of 
altering its Sunday soirees to another day. But if this 
were not agreeable, we could find for the Sundays enough 
pieces which the court does not like to see, but which 
would suit the common people, and would fill the treasury 
admirably." 

The conversation then turned upon actors, and much was 
said about the use and abuse of their powers. 

"I have, during my long practice," said Goethe, "found 
that the main point is never to allow any play, or scarcely 
an opera, to be studied, unless one can look forward with 
some certainty to a good success for years. ISTo one 
sufficiently considers the expenditure of power, which is 
demanded for the study of a five act play, or even an opera 
of equal length. Yes, my good friends, much is required 
before a singer has thoroughly mastered a part through all 
the scenes and acts, much more before the choruses go as 
they ought. 

" I am horrified, when I hear how lightly people often 
give orders for the study of an opera, of the success of 
which they truly know nothing, and of which they have 
only heard through some very uncertain newspaper notice. 
As we, in Germany, already possess very tolerable means of 
travelling, and are even beginning to have diligences, I 
would, on the intelligence of any new opera being pro- 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 127 

duced and praised, send to the spot the Regisseur, or some 
other trustworthy member of the theatre, that by his 
presence, at an actual representation, he might be con- 
vinced how far the highly-praised new opera was good for 
anything, whether our forces were sufficient for it or not. 
The expense of such a journey would be inconsiderable in 
comparison with the enormous advantage to be derived 
from it, and the fatal mistakes which, by these means, 
would be avoided. 

"And then, when a good play or a good opera has once 
been studied, it should be represented at short intervals, — 
be allowed to ' run ' as long as it draws, and continues at 
all to fill the house. The same plan would be applicable to 
a good old play, or a good old opera, which has, perhaps, 
been long laid aside, and which now requires not a little 
fresh study to be reproduced with success. Such a repre- 
sentation should be repeated at short intervals, as frequently 
as the public shows any interest in it. The desire always 
to have something new, and to see a good play or opera, 
which has been studied with excessive pains only once, or 
at the most twice, or even to allow the space of six or eight 
weeks to elapse between such repetitions, in which time a 
new study becomes necessary, is a real detriment to the 
theatre, and an unpardonable misuse of the talents of the 
performers engaged in it." 

Goethe appeared to consider this matter very important, 
and it seemed to lie so near his heart that he became more 
warm than, with his calm disposition, is often the case. 

" In Italy," continued Goethe, "they perform the same 
opera every evening for four or six weeks, and the great 
Italian children by no means desire any change. The 
polished Parisian sees the classical plays of his great poets 
so often that he knows them by heart, and has a practised 
ear for the accentuation of every syllable. Here, in 
Weimar, they have done me the honour to perform my 
' Iphigenia ' and my ' Tasso,' but how often ? Scarcely 
once in three or four years. The public finds them tedious. 
Very probably. The actors are not in practice to play the 
pieces, and the public is not in practice to hear them. If, 
through more frequent repetitions, the actors entered so 
much into the spirit of their parts that their representation 



128 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



gained life, as if it were not the result of study, and every- 
thing flowed from their own hearts, the public would, 
assuredly, no longer remain uninterested and unmoved. 

" I really had the notion once that it was possible to 
form a German drama. ITay, I even fancied that I myself 
could contribute to it, and lay some foundation-stones for 
such an edifice. I wrote my ' Iphigenia ' and my ' Tasso,' 
and thought, with a childish hope, that thus it might be 
brought about. But there was no emotion or excitement 
— all remained as it was before. If I had produced an 
effect, and had met with applause, I would have written a 
round dozen of pieces such as 'Iphigenia' and 'Tasso.' 
There was no deficiency of material. But, as I said, actors 
were wanting to represent such pieces with life and spirit, 
and a public was wanting to hear and receive them with 
sympathy." 

(Sup.) Wed., Mar. 30. — This evening to a great tea 
party at Goethe's, where I found a young American, 
besides the young Englishmen. I also had the pleasure 
of seeing the Countess Julia von Egloffstein, and of con- 
versing with her pleasantly on various subjects. 

(Sup.) Wed., April 6. — Goethe's advice has been followed, 
and a performance has taken place this evening, for the 
first time, in the great hall of the town-house, consisting of 
small things and fragments, which were in accordance 
with the confined space and the want of decorations. 
The little opera, " Das Hausgesinde " (the domestic ser- 
vants), went quite as well as that at the theatre. Then 
a favourite quartet, from the opera " Graf von Gleichen" 
(Count von Gleichen), by Eberwein, was received with 
decided approbation. Our first tenor, Herr Moltke, then 
sang a well-known song from " Die Zauberflote," after 
which, with a pause between, the grand finale to the first 
act of "Don Juan " came in with powerful effect, and 
nobly concluded this first substitute for an evening at the 
theatre. 

(Sup.) Sun., April 10.— Dined with Goethe. "I have 
the good news to tell you," said he, " that the Grand Duke 
has approved of our design for the new theatre, and that 
the foundation will be laid immediately." 

I was very much pleased at this information. 



1825.3 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



129 



"We had to contend with all sorts of obstacles," con- 
tinned Goethe ; " we are, at last, happily through them. 
We owe many thanks, on that account, to the Privy 
Councillor, Schweitzer, who, as we might have expected 
of him, stood true to our cause with hearty good will. 
The sketch is signed in the Grand Duke's own hand- 
writing, and is to undergo no further alteration. Rejoice, 
then, for you will obtain a very good theatre." 

(Sup.) Thur., April 14. — This evening at Goethe's. Since 
conversation upon the theatre and theatrical manage- 
ment were now the order of the day, I asked him upon 
what maxims he proceeded in the choice of a new member 
of the company. 

" I can scarcely say," returned Goethe ; " I had various 
modes of proceeding. If a striking reputation preceded 
the new actor, I let him act, and saw how he suited 
the others ; whether his style and [ manner disturbed our 
ensemble, or whether he would supply a deficiency. If, 
however, he was a young man who had never trodden a 
stage before, I first considered his personal qualities ; 
whether he had about him anything prepossessing or 
attractive, and, above all things, whether he had control 
over himself. For an actor who possesses no self-posses- 
sion, and who cannot appear before a stranger in his 
most favourable light, has, generally speaking, little 
talent. His whole profession requires continual self-denial, 
and a continual existence in a foreign mask. 

" If his appearance and his deportment pleased me, I 
made him read, in order to test the power and extent of 
his organ, as well as the capabilities of his mind. I gave 
him some sublime passage from a great poet, to see whether 
he was capable of feeling and expressing what was really 
great ; then something passionate and wild, to prove his 
power. I then went to something marked by sense and 
smartness, something ironical and witty, to see how he 
treated such things, and whether he possessed sufficient 
freedom. Then I gave him something in which was repre- 
sented the pain of a wounded heart, the suffering of a 
great soul, that I might learn whether he had it in his 
power to express pathos. 

" If he satisfied me in all these numerous particulars, I 

K 



130 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1825. 



had a well- grounded hope of making him a very important 
actor. If he appeared more capable in some particulars 
than in others, I remarked the line to which he was most 
adapted. I also now knew his weak points, and, above 
all, endeavoured to work upon him so that he might 
strengthen and cultivate himself here. If I remarked 
faults of dialect, and what are called provincialisms, I 
urged him to lay them aside, and recommended to him 
social intercourse and friendly practice with some member 
of the stage who was entirely free from them. I then 
asked him whether he could dance and fence ; and if this 
were not the case, I would hand him over for some time 
to the dancing and fencing masters. 

" If he were now sufficiently advanced to make his ap- 
pearance, I gave him at first such parts as suited his indivi- 
duality, and I desired nothing but that he should represent 
himself. If he now appeared to me of too fiery a nature, I 
gave him phlegmatic characters ; if too calm and tedious, I 
gave him fiery and hasty characters, that he might thus learn 
to lay aside himself, and assume foreign individuality." 

The conversation turned upon the casting of plays, upon 
which Goethe made, among others, the following re- 
markable observations : — 

" It is a great error to think, " said he, li that an indif- 
ferent piece may be played by indifferent actors. A second 
or third rate play can be incredibly improved by the 
employment of first-rate powers, and be made something 
really good. But if a second or third rate play be per- 
formed by second or third rate actors, no one can wonder 
if it is utterly ineffective. 

" Second-rate actors are excellent in great plays. They 
have the same effect that the figures in half shade have 
in a picture ; they serve admirably to show off more 
powerfully those which have the full light." 

(Sup.) Sat, April 16. — Dined at Goethe's with D* Alton, 
whose acquaintance I made last summer at Bonn, and 
whom it gave me much pleasure to meet again. D' Alton 
is a man quite after Goethe's own heart ; there is also 
a very pleasant relation between them. In his own 
science he appears of great importance, so that Goethe 
esteems his observations, and honours every word he 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 131 

utters. Moreover, D 'Alton is, as a man, amiable and 
witty, while in eloqnence and abundance of flowing thoughts 
few can equal him, and one is never tired of hearing him. 

Goethe, who in his endeavours to investigate nature 
would willingly encompass the Great Whole, stands in 
a disadvantageous position to every natural philosopher * 
of importance who has devoted a whole life to one special 
object. The latter has mastered a kingdom of endless 
details, whilst Goethe lives more in the contemplation 
of great universal laws. Thence it is that Goethe, who 
is always upon the track of some great synthesis, but 
who, from the want of knowledge of single facts, lacks 
a confirmation of his presentiments, seizes upon, and 
retains with [such decided love, every connection with 
important natural philosophers. For in them he finds 
what he hiniself wants ; in them he finds that which 
supplies his own deficiencies. He will in a few years 
be eighty years old ; but he is not tired of inquiries and 
experiments. In none of his tendencies has he come to 
a fixed point : he will always go on further and further. 
Still learning and learning. Thus he shows himself a 
man endowed with perpetual, imperishable youth. 

These reflections were awakened to-day, by his animated 
conversation with D 'Alton. D' Alton talked about Ro- 
dentia,f and the formation and modifications of their 
skeletons, and Goethe was unwearied in hearing new 
facts. 

Wed., April 20. — Goethe showed me this evening a letter 
from a young student, who begs of him the plan for the 
second part of " Faust," with the design of completing the 
work himself. In a straightforward, good-humoured, and 
candid tone, he freely sets forth his wishes and views, and 
at last, without reserve, utters his conviction that all other 
literary efforts of later years have been nought, but that in 
him a new literature is to bloom afresh. 

If I met a young man who would set about continuing 

* Naturforscher, literally " Investigator into Nature ; " for the 
Germans do not, like us, honour experimentalists with the name of 
philosophers. — Trans. 

t This word of Cuvier's exactly corresponds to the German Nag e. 
thier. — Trans. 

K2 



132 CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. [1825. 

Napoleon's conquest of the world, or a young dilettante in 
architecture, who attempted to complete the Cathedral of 
Cologne, I should not be more surprised, nor find them 
more insane and ridiculous, than this young poetical 
amateur, who fancies he could write a second part of 
" Faust " merely because he has a fancy to do so. 

Indeed, I think it more possible to complete the Cathedral 
of Cologne than to continue "Faust" on Goethe's plan. 
For the former object might, at any rate, be attained 
mathematically : it stands visibly before our eyes, and may 
be touched with our hands ; but what line or measure 
could avail for a mental invisible work, which wholly de- 
pends on the subjective peculiarity of the artist, in which 
the first discovery (appercu) is everything, and which, for 
its material, requires a great life actually experienced, and 
for its execution, a technical skill heightened to perfection 
by the practice of years. 

He who esteems such a work easy, or even possible, has 
certainly a very moderate talent, since he has not even a 
suspicion of the high and the difficult ; and it may be fairly 
maintained, that if Goethe had completed his " Faust ' f 
with only a deficiency of a few lines, such a youth would 
be unequal to supply the small gap. 

I will not inquire whence the young men of our day 
acquire the notion that they are born with that which has 
hitherto been attained only by the study and experience of 
many years, but I think I may observe that this presump- 
tuousness, now so common in Germany, which audaciously 
strides over all the steps of gradual culture, affords little 
hope of future masterpieces. 

"The misfortune," said Goethe, "in the state is, that 
nobody can enjoy life in peace, but that everybody must 
govern ; and in art, that nobody will enjoy what has been 
produced, but every one wants to reproduce on his own 
account. Again, no one thinks to be furthered in his own 
way by a work of poetry, but every one will do the same 
thing over again. There is, besides, no earnestness to ap- 
proach the Whole, no willingness to do anything for the 
sake of the Whole ; but each one tries to make his own 
Self observable, and to exhibit it as much as possible to 
the world. This false tendency is shown everywhere, and 



1825.3 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 133 

people imitate the modern musical virtuosi, who do not 
select those pieces which give the audience pure musical 
enjoyment, so much as those in which they can gain admi- 
ration by the dexterity they have acquired. Everywhere 
there is the individual who wants to show himself off to 
advantage, nowhere one honest effort to make oneself sub- 
servient to the Whole. 

" Hence it is that men acquire a bungling mode of pro- 
duction, without knowing it. Children make verses, and 
go on till they fancy, as youths, they can do something, 
until at last manhood gives them insight into the excel- 
lence that exists, and then they look back in despair on the 
years they have wasted on a false and highly futile effort. 
Xay, many never attain a knowledge of what is perfect, 
and of their own insufficiency, and go on doing things by 
halves to the end of their days. 

" It is certain that if every one could early enough be 
made to feel how full the world is already of excellence, 
and how much must be done to produce anything worthy 
of being placed beside what has already been produced, of 
a hundred youths who are now poetizing scarcely one 
would feel enough courage, perseverance, and talent to 
work quietly for the attainment of a similar mastery. 

"Many young painters would never have taken their 
pencils in hand if they could have felt, known, and under- 
stood early enough what really produced a master like 
Raphael." 

The conversation turned upon false tendencies in general, 
and Groethe continued — 

"Thus my tendency to practise painting was really a 
false one, for I had not natural talent from which anything 
of the sort could be developed. A certain sensibility to the 
surrounding landscapes was one of my qualities, and, con- 
sequently, my first attempts were really promising. The 
journey to Italy destroyed this pleasure in practice. A 
broad survey took its place, but the talent of love was lost ; 
and as an artistical talent could neither technically nor a3sthe- 
tically be developed, my efforts melted away into nothing. 

" It is justly said," continued Groethe, "that the culti- 
vation of all human powers in common is desirable, and 
also the chief end. But man is not born for this : every 



134 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



L1825. 



one must form himself as a particular being, seeking, how- 
ever, to attain that general idea of which all mankind are 
constituents." * 

I here thought of that passage in "Wilhclm Meister," 
where it is likewise said that all men, taken together, are 
requisite to constitute humanity, and that we are only so 
far worthy of esteem as we know how to appreciate. 

I thought, too, of the " Wanderjahre," where Jarno 
advises each man to learn only one trade, and says that this 
is the time for one-sidedness, and that he is to be congratu- 
lated who understands this, and, in that spirit, works for 
himself and others. 

Then comes the question, what occupation shall a man 
choose, that he may neither overstep his proper limits nor 
do too little ? 

He whose business it is to overlook many departments, to 
^udge, to guide others, should endeavour to attain the best 
insight into many departments. Thus a prince or a future 
statesmen cannot be too many-sided in his culture ; for 
many-sidedness belongs to his craft. 

The poet, too, should strive after manifold knowledge, 
for his subject is the whole world, which he has to handle 
and to express. 

However, the poet should not try to be a painter, but 
content himself with reflecting the world in words, just as 
he allows the actor to bring it before our eyes by personally 
exhibiting himself. 

Insight and practical activity are to be distinguished, and 
we ought to reflect that every art, when we reduce it to 
j3ractice, is something very great and difficult, and that 
mastery in it requires a life. 

Thus Goethe strove for insight into many things, but has 
practically confined himself to one thing only. Only one 
art has he practised, and that in a masterly style, viz. the 
art of writing German (JDeutsch zu schreiben). .That the 
matter which he uttered is of a many-sided nature is 
another affair. 

Culture is likewise to be distinguished from practical ac- 

* Den Begrijf zu erlangen suchen, was alle zusamhicn sind. The 
word " Bog-riff " (rendered not quite correctly " idea") is here used 
in the sense of the Hegelian school. — Trans. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



135 



tivity. Thus it belongs to the cultivation of the poet that 
his eye should be practised for the apprehension of external 
objects. And if Goethe calls his practical tendency to 
painting a false one, it was still of use in cultivating him 
as a poet. 

" The objectivity of my poetry," said he, " may be attri- 
buted to this great attention and discipline of the eye ; and 
I ought highly to prize the knowledge which I have at- 
tained in this way." 

But we must take care not to place the limits of our 
culture too far off. 

" The investigators into nature," said Goethe, " are most 
in danger of this, because a general harmonious culture of 
the faculties is really required for the adequate observa- 
tion of nature." 

But, on the other hand, every one should strive to guard 
himself against one-sidedness and narrow views, with re- 
spect to the knowledge which is indispensable to his own. 
department. 

A poet who writes for the stage must have a knowledge 
of the stage, that he may weigh the means at his command, 
and know generally what is to be done, and what is to be 
left alone ; the opera-composer, in like manner, should have 
some insight into poetry, that he may know how to dis- 
tinguish the bad from the good, and not apply his art 
to something impracticable. 

" Carl Maria Von Weber," said Goethe, " should not 
have composed ' Euryanthe.' He should have seen at once 
that this was a bad material, of which nothing could be 
made. So much insight we have a right to expect of every 
composer, as belonging to his art." 

Thus, too, the painter should be able to distinguish sub- 
jects : for it belongs to his department to know what he 
has to paint, and what to leave unpainted. 

"But when all is said," observed Goethe, "the greatest 
art is to limit and isolate oneself." 

Accordingly he has, ever since I have been with him, 
constantly endeavoured to guard me against all distrac- 
tions, and to concentrate me to a single department. If I 
showed an inclination to penetrate the secrets of natural 
science, he always advised me to let it alone, and confine 



136 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



myself to poetry for the present. If I wished to read a 
book which he thought would not advance me in my pre- 
sent pursuits, he always advised me to let it alone, saying" 
that it was of no practical use to me. 

"I myself," said he one day, "have spent too much time 
on things which did not belong to my proper department. 
When I reflect what Lopez de Vega accomplished, the 
number of my poetical productions seems very small. I 
should have kept more to my own trade." 

" If I had not busied myself so much with stones," said 
he another time, "but had spent my time on something 
better, I might have won the finest ornament of diamonds." 

For the same cause he esteems and praises his friend 
Meyer for having devoted his whole life exclusively to the 
study of art, and thus having obtained beyond a doubt the 
highest degree of penetration in his department. 

" I also grew up with this tendency," said Goethe, "and 
passed almost half my life in the contemplation and study 
of works of art, but in a certain respect I am not on a par 
with Meyer. I, therefore, never venture to show him a new 
picture at once, but first see how far I can get on with it 
myself. When I think I am fully acquainted both with its 
beauties and defects I show it to Meyer, who sees far more 
sharply into the matter, and who, in many respects, gives 
quite new lights. Thus I am ever convinced anew how 
much is needed to be thoroughly great in any one thing. 
In Meyer lies an insight into art belonging to thousands of 
years." 

Why, then, it may be asked, if Goethe was so thoroughly 
persuaded that one man can only do one thing well, did he 
employ his life in such extremely various directions ? 

I answer that, if Goethe now came into the world, and 
found the literary and scientific endeavours of his native 
country at the height which they have now, chiefly through 
him, attained, he certainly would find no occasion for such 
various tendencies, but would simply confine himself to a 
single department. 

Thus, it was not only in his nature to look in every direc- 
tion, and to make himself clear about earthly things, but it 
was needful for his time that he should speak out what he 
had observed. 



i825.] 



C0NVEKSATI0NS OF GOETHE. 



137 



On his appearance in tlie world, he came in for two large 
inheritances. Error and insufficiency fell to his lot that he 
might remove them, and required a labour in many direc- 
tions as long as his life endured. 

If the Newtonian theory had not appeared to Goethe as 
a great error, highly injurious to the human mind, is it to 
be supposed that he would have had the notion of writing 
a "theory of colours," and devoting the labour of years to 
such a merely collateral object ? Certainly not. But it was 
his love of truth in conflict with error that induced him to 
make his pure light shine even into this darkness. 

The same thing may be said of his doctrine of the " Meta- 
morphosis of Plants," through which we are indebted to 
him for a model of scientific treatment. Goethe would cer- 
tainly never have thought of writing this work if he had 
seen his contemporaries in the way towards such a goal. 

Kay, the same thing may be said of his varied poetical 
efforts. It is a question whether Goethe would ever have 
written a novel, if a work like " Wilhelm Meister " had 
already been in the hands of his nation. It is a question 
whether in that case he would not have devoted himself 
exclusively to dramatic poetry. 

What he would have effected and produced, if he had 
been confined to one direction, is not to be seen ; but so 
much is certain, that if we look at the whole, no intelligent 
person will wish that Goethe had not produced everything 
to which it pleased his Creator to direct him. 

(Sup.) Wed., April 27. — Towards the evening to Goethe, 
who had invited me to take a drive to the lower garden. 
"Before we go," said he, "I will give you a letter from 
Zelter, which I received yesterday, and wherein he touches 
upon the affairs of our theatre. 

" 4 That you are not the man,' he writes, amongst other 
things, 'to found a drama for the people of Weimar I could 
have seen long ago. He who makes himself green, tho 
goats will eat. Other high folks should take this into 
consideration, who would cork wine during its fermenta- 
tion. 

" ' Friends, we have lived to see it ; yes, lived to see it.' " 
Goethe looked at me, and we laughed. "Zelter is a 
capital fellow," said he ; " but sometimes he does not quite 



138 CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. f 1 ^. 

understand me, and, puts a false construction on my 
words. 

" 1 have devoted my whole life to the people and their 
improvement, and why should I not also found a drama ? 
But here in Weimar, in this small capital, which, as people 
jokingly say, has ten thousand poets and a few inhabitants, 
how can we talk about the people, much more a theatre for 
the people ? Weimar will doubtless become, at some future' 
time, a great city ; but we must wait some centuries before 
the people of Weimar will form a mass sufficient to be able 
to found and support a drama." 

The horses were now put to, and we drove to the lower 
garden. The evening was calm and mild, rather sultry, 
and large clouds appeared gathering in tempestuous 
masses. We walked up and down the dry gravel path, 
Goethe quietly by my side, apparently agitated by various 
thoughts. Meanwhile, I listened to the notes of the black- 
bird and thrush, who, upon the tops of the still leafless ash- 
trees, beyond the Urn, sang against the gathering tempest. 

Goethe cast his glances around, now towards the clouds, 
now upon the green which was bursting forth everywhere, 
on the sides of the path and on the meadows, as well as on 
the bushes and hedges. "A warm thunder- shower, which 
the evening promises," said he, "and spring will again 
appear in all her splendour and abundance," 

In the mean time the clouds became more threatening, a 
low peal of thunder was heard, some drops of rain also fell, 
and Goethe thought it advisable to drive back into the 
town. " If you have no engagement," said he, as we 
alighted at his dwelling, " go upstairs, and spend an hour 
or so with me." This I did with great pleasure. 

Zelter's letter still lay upon the table. "It is strange, 
very strange," said Goethe, " how easily one falls into a 
false position with respect to public opinion. I do not 
know that I ever joined in any way against the people ; but 
it is now settled, once for all, that I am no friend to the 
people. I am, indeed, no friend to the revolutionary mob, 
whose object is robbery, murder, and destruction, and who, 
"behind the mask of public welfare, have their eyes only 
upon the meanest egotistical aims. I am no friend to such 
people, any more than I am a friend of a Louis XY. I 



I82 S .] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



139 



Late every violent overthrow, because as much good is de- 
stroyed as is gained by it. I hate those who achieve it, as 
well as those who give cause for it. But am I therefore no 
friend to the people ? Does any right-minded man think 
otherwise ? 

"You know how greatly 1 rejoice at every improvement, 
of which the future gives us some prospect. But, as I 
said, all violent transitions are revolting to my mind, for 
they are not conformable to nature. 

" I am a friend to plants ; I love the rose as the most 
perfect flower which our German nature can produce ; but 
I am not fool enough to desire that my garden should pro- 
duce them now, at the end of April. I am now satisfied if 
I now find the first green leaves, satisfied if I see how one 
leaf after another is formed upon the stem, from week to 
week ; I am pleased when, in May, I perceive the buds, 
and am happy when, at last, in June, the rose itself ap- 
pears in all its splendour and all its fragrance. If any one 
cannot wait, let him go to the hothouses. 

"It is farther said that I am a servant, a slave to 
princes, as if that were saying anything. Do I then serve 
a tyrant — a despot ? Do I serve one who lives at the cost 
of the people, only for his own pleasures ? Such princes 
and such times lie, God be praised, far behind us. I have 
been intimately connected with the Grand Duke for half a 
century, and have, during half a century striven and 
worked with him ; but I should speak falsely if I were to 
say that I have known a single day in which the Grand Duke 
has not thought of doing and executing something tending 
to the benefit of the land, and fitted to improve the condition 
of individuals. As for himself personally, what has he 
from his princely station but toil and trouble ? Is his 
dwelling, his apparel, or his table better appointed than that 
of any wealthy private man ? Only go into our seaport 
towns, and you will find the kitchen and cellar of any con- 
siderable merchant better appointed than his. 

" This autumn," continued Goethe, " we are going to 
celebrate the day on which the Grand Duke will have 
governed for fifty years. But when I consider it rightly 
— this government of his — what was it but a continual 
servitude ? What has it been but a servitude in the attain- 



140 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1825. 



ment of great ends, — a servitude to the welfare of his 
people ? If, then, I mnst perforce be the slave of a prince, 
it is at least my consolation that I am still only the slave 
of one who is himself a slave to the common weal." 

(Sup.) Fri., April 29. — The building of the new theatre 
up to this time had advanced very rapidly ; the foundation 
walls had already risen on every side, and gave promise of 
a very beautiful building. 

But to-day, on going to the site of the building, I saw, 
to my horror, that the work was discontinued ; and I heard 
it reported that another party, opposed to Goethe and Cou- 
dray's plan, had at last triumphed ; that Coudray had 
retired from the direction of the building, and that another 
architect was going to finish it after a new design, and alter 
accordingly the foundation already laid. 

I was deeply grieved at what I saw and heard, for I had 
rejoiced, with many others, at the prospect of seeing a 
theatre arise in Weimar executed according to Goethe's 
practical view of a judicious internal arrangement, and, as 
far as beauty was concerned, in accordance with his culti- 
vated taste. 

But I also grieved for Goethe and Coudray, who must 
both, more or less, feel hurt by this event. 

(Sup.) Sun., May 1. — Dined with Goethe. It may be 
supposed that the alteration in the building of the theatre 
was the first subject we talked upon. I had, as I said, 
feared that this most unexpected measure would deeply 
wound Goethe's feelings ; but there was no sign of it. I 
found him in the mildest and most serene frame of mind, 
quite raised above all sensitive littleness. 

" They have," said he, " assailed the Grand Duke on the 
side of expenditure, and the great saving of expense which 
will be effected by the change of plan for the building, 
and they have succeeded. I am quite content. A new 
theatre is, in the end, only a new funeral pile which some 
accident will, sooner or later, set on fire. I console myself 
with this. Besides, a trifle more or less is not worth men- 
tioning. You will have a very tolerable house, if not 
exactly such a one as I wished and imagined. You will 
go to it, and I shall go to it too, and, in the end, all will 
turn out well enough. 



I82 S .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



141 



" The Grand Duke," said Goethe, " disclosed to me his 
opinion, that a theatre need not be of architectural mag- 
nificence, which conld not be contradicted. He further 
said, that it was nothing but a house for the purpose of 
getting money. This view appears at first sight rather 
material ; but rightly considered, it is not without a higher 
purport. For if a theatre is not only to pay its expenses, 
but is, besides, to make and save money, everything about 
it must be excellent. It must have the best management 
at its head ; the actors must be of the best ; and good 
pieces must continually be performed, that the attractive 
power required to draw a full house every evening may 
never cease. But that is saying a great deal in a few words 
— almost what is impossible." 

" The Grand Duke's view," said I, " of making the 
theatre gain money appears to be very practical, since it 
implies a necessity of remaining continually on a summit 
of excellence." 

" Even Shakspeare and Moliere," returned Goethe, "had 
no other view. Both of them wished, above all things, 
to make money by their theatres. In order to attain this, 
their principal aim, they necessarily strove that everything 
should be as good as possible, and that, besides good old 
plays, there should be some clever novelty to please and 
attract. The prohibition of ' Tartuff e ' was a thunderbolt 
to Moliere ; but not so much for the poet as for the director 
Moliere, who had to consider the welfare of an important 
troupe, and to find some means to procure bread for him- 
self and his actors. 

"Nothing," continued Goethe, "is more dangerous to 
the well-being of a theatre than when the director is so 
placed, that a greater or less receipt at the treasury does 
not affect him personally, and he can live on in careless 
security, knowing that, however the receipts at the treasury 
may fail in the course of the year, at the end of that 
time he will be able to indemnify himself from another 
source. It is a property of human nature soon to relax 
when not impelled by personal advantage or disadvantage. 
Now, it is not desirable that a theatre, in such a town 
as Weimar, should support itself, and that no contribution 
from the Prince's treasury should be necessary. But 



142 CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. [1825. 

still everything has its bounds and limits, and a thousand 
dollars yearly, more or less, is by no means a trifling 
matter, particularly as diminished receipts and deteriora- 
tions are dangers natural to a theatre ; so that there is 
a loss not only of money, but also of honour. 

" If I were the Grand Duke, I would in future, on any 
change in the management, once for all appoint a fixed 
sum for an annual contribution. I would strike the 
average of the contributions during the last ten years, 
and according to that I would settle a sum sufficient to 
be regarded as a proper support. With this sum the 
house must be kept. But then I would go a step further, 
and say, that if the director and his Begisseurs contrived, 
by means of judicious and energetic management, to have 
an overplus in the treasury at the end of the year, this 
overplus should be shared, as a remuneration, between the 
director, the Begisseurs, and the principal members of the 
company. Then you would see what activity there would 
be, and how the establishment would awaken out of the 
drowsiness into which it must gradually fall. 

" Our theatrical laws," continued Goethe, " contain 
various penalties ; but there is no single law for the en- 
couragement and reward of distinguished merit. This is 
a great defect. For if, with every failure, I have a pros- 
pect of a deduction from my salary, I should also have the 
prospect of a reward, whenever I do more than can be 
properly expected of me. And it is by every one's doing 
more than can be hoped or expected of him that a theatre 
rises." 

Frau von Goethe and Fraulein Ulrica now entered, 
both gracefully clothed in summer attire, on account of 
the beautiful weather. The conversation during dinner 
was light and cheerful. We spoke about various parties 
of pleasure during the past week, and also about similar 
plans for the following one. 

" If we continue to have fine evenings," said Frau von 
Goethe, " I shall have great pleasure in giving a tea- 
party in the park, where we can listen to the song of the 
nightingale. What do you say, dear father ? " 

" That would be very pleasant," returned Goethe. "And 
you, Eckermann," said Frau von Goeth#, " how do you 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 143 

Feel disposed? May one invite yon?" "But, Ottilie," 
rejoined Eraulein Ulrica, "how can yon invite the doctor? 
He will not come ; and if he does come, he sits as if 
upon thorns, and one can see that his mind is elsewhere, 
md that the sooner he is gone the better he wonld like it." 
; ' To speak the plain tmth," returned I, " I wonld certainly 
father ramble abont the fields with Doolan. Tea, tea- 
parties, and tea- conversation, are so contrary to my nature, 
that I feel uncomfortable even when I think of them." 
"But, Eckermann," said Frau von Goethe, "at a tea.- 
party in the park, you are in the open air, and quite in 
four element." " On the contrary," said I, " when I am so 
near nature, that I scent all her fragrance, and yet cannot 
thoroughly enjoy it, it is to me as unendurable as it would 
be to a duck to be brought near to the water, and yet pre- 
vented from plunging into it." "You might say, too," 
remarked Goethe, laughing, "that you would feel like a 
aorse who, on raising his head in the stable, sees other 
horses running wild upon an extensive plain before his 
3yes. He scents the delights and freedom of fresh nature, 
but cannot partake of them. Let Eckermann alone ; he 
is as he is, and you cannot alter him. But tell me, my 
;?ood friend, how do you employ yourself with that Doolan 
}f yours, in the open fields, these long fine afternoons ? " 
;t We look out for some retired grove," said I, "and shoot 
with bows and arrows." "Humph!" said Goethe, "that 
may be a pretty amusement." " It is a glorious method," 
said I, "to get rid of the ills of winter." "But how in 
the world," said Goethe, "did you get bows and arrows 
liere in Weimar? " "As for the arrows," returned I, " I 
brought a model with me, on my return from my expedi- 
tion into Brabant in 1814. Shooting with bows and arrows 
is there universal. There is no town, however small, that 
has not an archery society. They take their station in 
some public-house, like our skittle-ground, and generally 
assemble late in the afternoon, when I have often watched 
them with great pleasure. What well- grown men were 
there, and what picturesque attitudes when they bent the 
bow! How was their strength displayed, and what 
excellent marksmen they were ! They generally shot from 
a distance of sixty or eighty steps, at a paper mark upon a 



144 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [i 825. 

Hioist clay wall ; they sliot quickly one after another, and left 
the arrows sticking in. And it was not seldom that out 
of fifteen arrows five struck the centre, which was about 
the size of a dollar, while the rest were very near it. 
When all had shot, each went and drew his arrow out of 
the soft wall, and the game went on afresh. I was then so 
enraptured with this archery, that I thought it would be 
a great thing to introduce it into Germany, and I was so 
stupid as to deem it possible. I often "bargained for a bow. 
but there were none to be had under twenty francs, and 
how could a poor Jager like myself scrape together so 
much money ? I therefore confined myself to an arrow, 
as the most important and most elaborate article ; and 
bought one [at a manufactory at Brussels for a franc, 
which I brought home, together with a drawing, as my 
only prize of victory." 

" That is just like you," said Goethe. " But do not 
think that you can make anything natural and beautiful 
popular. A long time, and a confounded deal of work, 
will be requisite, at any rate. But I can easily imagine 
that this Brabant archery is very beautiful. Our German 
amusements in the skittle-ground appear rough and 
ordinary, in comparison with it, and savour strongly of 
the Philistine." * 

"The beauty of archery," returned I, "is that it dis- 
plays the body symmetrically, and exercises the powers in 
equal proportion. There is the left arm, which holds the 
bow, stiff, strong, and firm ; there is the right, which 
draws the string with the arrow, and must be no less 
powerful. At the same time both the feet and the thighs 
are planted strongly, to form a firm basis for the upper 
part of the body. The eye directed to the aim, and the 
muscles of the neck are all in full tension and activity : 
and then the feeling of joy, when the arrow darts whizz- 
ing from the bow, and pierces the desired mark ! I know 
no bodily exercise that can be at all compared to it." 

"It would be very well suited to our gymnastic insti- 
tutions," answered Goethe. "And I should not wonder 
if, in twenty years, we were to have skilful archers by 

* " Philister," the academical slang corresponding to the English 
i( snob." — Trans. 



I82 5 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



145 



the thousands in Germany. Generally speaking, much, 
is not to be done with a full-grown generation, in 
physical or in mental pursuits, in matters of taste or of 
character. Be clever enough to begin with the schools, 
and you may succeed." 

" But our German teachers of gymnastics," returned I, 
" do not understand the use of bows and arrows." 

" Well," said Goethe, " several gymnastic societies 
might combine, and a skilful archer might be brought 
from Flanders or Brabant. Or they might send some fine, 
well-grown young gymnasts to Brabant, that they might 
be trained to good archers, and learn how to carve bows 
and make arrows. These young men might enter the 
German gymnastic institutions as travelling teachers, who 
would sojourn for a time, now with one society, and now 
with another. 

"I have," continued Goethe, " no objection to German 
gymnastic exercises. On the contrary, I was sorry that so 
much politics crept into them, so that the authorities were 
obliged to restrain them, or even to forbid and abolish 
them. By this means we have thrown away the good for 
the bad.* But I hope that the gymnastic institutions will 
be revived ; for our German youths need them, especially 
the students, who, with a great deal of mental and 
intellectual exertion, are without any physical equilibrium, 
and therefore without any necessary power of action. 
But tell me something more about your bow and arrow. 
Then you have really brought an arrow with you from 
Brabant ? I should like to see it." 

" It has been lost long ago," returned I. "I re- 
membered it so well, that I succeeded in replacing it, and 
indeed by a dozen instead of one. It was not, however, 
so easy as I expected, and I made many fruitless attempts 
and many failures, but by that very means I learned a 
great deal. The first thing to be attended to was the 
shaft ; I had to see that it was straight, and would not 
warp in a short time ; then that it was light and strong 
enough not to split in striking against a hard substance. 
I made experiments with the wood of the poplar, then of 

* Literally, " thrown away the ohild with the bath " (das Kind 
rait dem Bade verschxittet) — a German proyerbial expression. — Trans. 



146 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



the pine, and then of the birch ; but they were all deficient 
in one quality or another, and were not such as they ought 
to be. I then made experiments with the wood of the 
lime-tree from a slender straight stem, and I found exactly 
what I wished for and had sought. Such a shaft was 
light, straight, and strong, on account of its fine fibres. 
The next thing to be done was to furnish the lower end 
with a tip of horn ; but it soon became evident that all 
horn was not fit for the purpose, and that it must be 
cut out of the kernel, in order that it might not split 
on being shot against any hard substance. But the most 
difficult part was yet to do, namely, the feathering of 
the arrow. How I bungled, and what failures I made, 
before I succeeded in bringing it to any perfection ! " 

" The feathers are not let into the shaft, but glued on, 
are they not ?" said Groethe. 

" They are glued on," returned I ; " but this must be 
so strongly and so neatly done, that they shall appear 
as if they were a part of the shaft, and had grown out 
of it. It is not a matter of indifference what glue one 
uses. I have found that isinglass, steeped in water for 
some hours, and then with some spirit added, dissolved to 
a jelly over a gentle charcoal fire, makes the best glue. 
Neither are all feathers serviceable alike. The feathers 
drawn from the wings of all great birds are indeed good, 
but I have found the red feathers from the wings of the 
peacock, the large feathers of the turkey-cock, and par- 
ticularly the strong and splendid ones of the eagle and 
bustard, the best of any." 

li I hear all this with great interest," said Goethe. " One 
who did not know you, would scarcely believe that your 
tendencies were so lively. But tell me now, how came 
you by a bow ?" 

" I made some myself," returned I. " But here also I 
bungled dreadfully at first. I consulted cabinet-makers 
and cartwrights. I tried all the kinds of wood in this 
place, and at last arrived at excellent results. In the 
choice of woods, I had to take care that the bow should 
bend easily, that it should spring back strongly and quickly, 
and that its elasticity should last. I made my first ex- 
periment with ash, with a branchless stem of about ten 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 147 

years' growth, and of the thickness of a moderate-sized 
arm. But in working, I came to the heart, which was 
not good for my purpose, as the wood about it was of 
too coarse a grain. I was advised to take a stem which 
would be strong enough to schlachten into four parts." 

" Schlachten" asked Goethe, " what is that ? " 

" It is a technical term used by cartwrights," returned 
I, " and means the same as sjpalten (to spilt), so that a 
wedge is driven quite through the stem, from one end to 
the other. Now, if the stem grows straight, I mean if the 
fibres rise in a straight line, the pieces obtained by splitting 
will be straight and fit for a bow. But if the stem be 
curved, the pieces will have a curved, crooked direction, 
and be unfit for a bow, since the wedge follows the fibres." 

" But what would be the result of saving such a stem 
into four parts ? One could thus obtain straight pieces in 
every case." 

"One might," returned I, " cut through a stem in which 
the fibres were twisted, and this would make the parts of 
no use for a bow." 

" I understand," said Goethe ; u a bow in which the 
fibres were cut through would break. But go on further ; 
this subject interests me." 

" I therefore made," said I, " my second bow with a 
piece of split ash. There were no fibres divided at the 
back, the bow was strong and firm ; but I discovered this 
fault, that it was hard, instead of easy to bend." i; You 
have taken a piece of a seedling ash," said the cartwright, 
" which is always a very stiff wood ; but take one of the 
tough sort, and you will find it better. On this occasion 
I learned that there is a great difference in ash, and that, 
in all kinds of wood, a great deal depends upon the place 
and soil on which they grow. I learned that the wood of 
the Ettersberg is of little value as timber; that, on the 
contrary, the wood in the neighbourhood of Nohra possesses 
remarkable strength, on account of which the carriers of 
"Weimar have great confidence in the cart-fittings made at 
RTohra. In my subsequent experiments I made the 
discovery that all wood which grows upon the northern 
side of a declivity is stronger, and of more even fibres than 
that which grows on the southern side. This is compre- 

l2 



148 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



hensible. For a young tree which grows on the shady 
north side of a cliff, mnst seek light and sun from above ; 
on which acconnt, longing for the sun, it continually 
struggles upwards, and draws the fibres in a perpendicular 
direction. Besides, a shady situation is favourable to the 
formation of a finer fibre, which is very strikingly apparent 
in those trees which grow in such a situation, that their 
south side is constantly exposed to the sun, whilst their 
north side is always in the shade. If such a stem lay 
sawn in pieces before us, we should remark that the point 
of the heart was by no means in the centre, but very much 
on one side. And this eccentricity of the heart arises from 
the circumstance that the yearly rings of the south side 
become, through the constant influence of the sun, 
developed more strongly, and are therefore broader than 
those on the shady north side. Hence cabinet-makers and 
cartwrights, when they require a strong fine wood, choose 
in preference the more finely developed north side of a 
stem, which they call the winter side, and in which they 
have great confidence." 

" You can imagine," said Goethe, " that your observa- 
tions are very interesting to me, who have, for half my 
life, occupied myself with the growth of plants and trees. 
But continue your relation. You probably made then a 
bow from a tough ash ? " 

" I did so," returned I, "and I took a well split piece 
from the winter side, in which I found a tolerably fine 
fibre. The bow was also easy to bend, and very elastic. 
But after it had been in use some months, a very con- 
siderable curve showed itself, and it was evident that the 
elasticity did not continue. I then made experiments with 
the stem of a young oak, which was moreover a perfectly 
good wood ; but I soon found the same fault in this. 1 
then tried the stem of a walnut tree, which was better ; 
and at last the stem of a fine-leafed maple — a Masholder, 
as it is called, which was the best, and which left nothing 
to desire." 

" I know the wood," returned Goethe ; " it is often 
found in hedges. I can imagine that it is good. But I have 
seldom found a young stem without knots ; and to make 
a bow, do you not require wood quite free from them ? " 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 149 

" A young stem," returned I, " is indeed not without 
knots ; but when one rears it to a tree, the knots are 
taken off, or if it grow in a thicket, they disappear in time 
of their own accord. Now, if a stem is about two or 
three inches in diameter when the knots are removed, 
and if it is allowed to increase yearly, and to form new 
wood on the outside, at the expiration of fifty or eighty 
years, the knotty inner part will be encased in about six 
inches of sound wood, free from knots. Such a stem will 
present a very smooth exterior ; but one cannot tell what 
imperfections it has within. We shall, therefore, at all 
events, be safe with a plank sawn from such a stem, if 
we keep to the outside, and cut a few inches from that 
piece which is immediately under the bark, that is to say, 
the splint and what follows, as this is always the youngest 
and toughest wood, and the most suitable for a bow." 

"I thought," said Goethe, "that the wood for a bow 
should not be sawn, but must be split, or as you call it 
Gesclilacliet." 

"Certainly, when it can be split," returned I. "Ash, 
oak, and walnut may be split, because they are woods of 
a coarse fibre. But not the Masliolcler. For it is a wood of 
such a fine interwoven fibre, that it will not divide accord- 
ing to the course of the fibres, but splits quite against the 
natural grain. The wood of the Masholder must therefore 
be divided with the saw, and that without endangering 
the strength of the bow." 

" Humph ! Humph !" said Goethe. "You have acquired 
considerable knowledge through your bow mania. And 
it is that lively kind of knowledge which is attained only 
in a practical way. But that is the advantage of a 
passionate liking for any pursuit, that it carries one to 
the very bottom of the subject. Besides, seeking and 
blundering are good, for it is by seeking and blundering 
that we learn. And, indeed, one learns not merely the 
thing itself, but everything connected with it. What 
should I have known of plants and colours, if my theory 
had been handed down to me ready made, and I had learned 
it by heart ? But from the very circumstance that I was 
obliged to seek and find everything for myself, and 
occasionally to make mistakes, I can say that I know 



150 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1825. 



something of both these subjects, and more than stands on 
paper. But tell me something more about your bow. I 
have seen some Scotch ones, which were quite straight 
to the point, and others the points of which were curved. 
Which do you consider the best ? " 

" I consider," returned I, " that the elasticity is much 
greater when the ends of the bow are curved backwards. 
At first I made them straight, because I did not under- 
stand how to bend the ends. But when I had learned how 
to do it, I bent the ends, and I find that the bow not only 
has a more beautiful appearance, but also that it acquires 
more power." 

" The curves are made by heat, are they not ? " said 
Goethe. 

" Yes ; by moist heat," returned I. " When the bow is 
so far finished that the elasticity is equally distributed, and 
that it is nowhere stronger or weaker than it ought to be, 
I place one end of it in boiling water, about six or eight 
inches deep, and let it boil for about an hour. I then 
screw this softened end, while it is hot, between two small 
blocks, the inner surface of which has the form of the 
curve that I wish to give to my bow. In this state of 
pressure, I let it remain at least a day and a night, that it 
may be perfectly dry, and I then proceed with the other 
end in the same manner. Points so treated are as inde- 
structible as if they had grown in such a curve." 

" What do you think ? " said Goethe, with a mysterious 
laugh. " I believe I have something for you, which will 
not be unacceptable. Suppose we went down together, 
and I were to put a genuine Baschkir bow* in your 
hands." 

" A Baschkir bow ! " exclaimec' I, full of animation, 
" and a genuine one ? " 

" Yes, mad fellow, a genuine one," said Goethe. " Come 
along." We went down into the garden. Goethe opened 
the under chamber of a small outhouse, the tables and 
walls of which appeared crammed with rarities and curi- 
osities of every description. I casfc only a transient glance 
at these treasures ; my eyes sought the bo w. " Here it is," 
said Goethe, " as he took it from a corner, out of a heap 

* The Baschkiren are a Tartar race subject to Eussia. — Trans. 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 151 

of all sorts of strange implements. I see it is in the 
same condition as when it was presented to me in the year 
1814, by a BaschMr chief. Now, what do yon say ? " 

I was delighted to hold the precions weapon in my hands. 
It appeared quite nninjnred, and even the string appeared 
perfectly serviceable. I tried it in my hands, and fonnd 
that it was still tolerably elastic. " It is a good bow," said 
I. " The form especially pleases me, and for the future it 
shall serve me as a model." 

" Of what wood is it made, do yon think ? " 

"It is, as yon see, so covered with birch bark," replied I, 
" that very little of the wood is visible, and only the curved 
ends remain exposed. Even these are so embrowned by 
time, that one cannot well distinguish what the wood is. 
At the first glance, it looks like young oak, and then again 
like nnt tree. I think that it is nnt tree, or a wood that 
resembles it. Maple or masholder it is not. It is a wood 
of coarser fibre ; besides, I observe signs of its having been 
split (geschlachtei)." 

" Suppose you were to try it now," said Goethe. " Here 
you have an arrow. But be cautious with the iron point, 
it may be poisoned." 

We went again into the garden, and I bent the bow. 
" Now, where will you shoot ? " said Goethe. " Into the 
air at first, I think," said I. " Go on, then," said Goethe. 
I shot up towards the sunny clouds in the blue sky. The 
arrow supported itself well, then turned round, came 
whizzing downwards, and stuck into the ground. " Now 
let me try," said Goethe. I was pleased that he, too, 
was going to shoot. I gave him the bow, and fetched the 
arrow. 

Goethe placed the notch of the arrow upon the string, 
and held the bow right, but was some time before he could 
manage it properly. He now aimed upwards, and drew 
the string. There he stood like an Apollo, with imperish- 
able youth of soul, although old in body. The arrow only 
attained a very moderate height, and then fell to the 
ground. I ran and fetched the arrow. " Once more," 
said Goethe. He now took aim along the gravel path of 
the garden. The arrow supported itself about thirty paces 
tolerably well, then fell, and whizzed along upon the 



152 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1825. 



ground. Goethe pleased me beyond measure, by thus 
shooting with the bow and arrow. I thought of the 
verses — 

" Does old age leave me in the lurch ? 
Am I again a child ? " 

I brought him back the arrow. He begged me to shoot 
once in a horizontal direction, and gave me for a mark a 
spot in the window-shutter of his workroom. I shot. The 
arrow was not far from the mark ; but penetrated so deep 
into the soft wood, that I could not get it out again. " Let 
it stick there," said Goethe, " it shall serve me for some 
days as a remembrance of our sport." 

"We walked up and down the garden, enjoying the fine 
weather ; we then sat upon a bench with our backs against 
the young leaves of a thick hedge. We spoke about the 
bow of Ulysses, about the heroes of Homer, then about 
the Greek tragic poets, and lastly about the widely diffused 
opinion, that Euripides caused the decline of the Greek 
drama. Goethe was, by no means, of this opinion. 

"Altogether," said he, "I am opposed to the view 
that any single man can cause the decline of an art. Much, 
which it is not so easy to set forth, must co-operate to this 
end. The decline of the tragic art of the Greeks could 
no more have been caused by Euripides, than could that of 
sculpture by any great sculptor who lived in the time of 
Phidias, but was inferior to him. For when an epoch is 
great, it proceeds in the path of improvement, and an in- 
ferior production is without results. But what a great 
epoch was the time of Euripides ! It was the time, not of 
a retrograde, but of a progressive taste. Sculpture had 
not yet reached its highest point, and painting was still in 
its infancy. 

" If the pieces ot Euripides, compared with those of 
Sophocles, had great faults, it was not necessary that 
succeeding poets should imitate these faults, and be spoilt 
by them. But if they had great merits, so that some of 
them were even preferable to plays of Sophocles, why did 
not succeeding poets strive to imitate their merits ; and 
why did they not thus become at least as great as 
Euripides himself ? 

"But if after the three celebrated tragic poets, there 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 153 

appeared no equally great fourth, fifth, or sixth — this is, 
indeed, a matter difficult to explain ; nevertheless, we may 
have our own conjectures, and approach the truth in some 
degree. 

" Man is a simple being. And however rich, varied, and 
unfathomable he may be, the cycle of his situations is soon 
ran through. 

" If the same circumstances had occurred, as with us 
poor Germans, for whom Lessing has written two or three, 
I myself three or four, and Schiller five or six passable 
plays, there might easily have been room for a fourth, 
fifth, and sixth tragic poet. 

" But with the Greeks and the abundance of their pro- 
ductions — for each of the three great poets has written a 
hundred, or nearly a hundred pieces, and the tragical sub- 
jects of Homer, and the heroic traditions, were some of 
them treated three or four times — with such abundance of 
existing works, I say, one can well imagine that by degrees, 
subjects were exhausted, and that any poet who followed 
the three great ones would be puzzled how to proceed, 

" And, indeed, for what purpose should he write ? Was 
there not, after all, enough for a time ? And were not the 
productions of ^Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides of that 
kind and of that depth, that they might be heard again 
and again without being esteemed trite, or put on one side ? 
Even the few noble fragments which have come down to 
us are so comprehensive and of such deep significance, that 
we poor Europeans have already busied ourselves with 
them for centuries, and shall find nutriment and work in 
them for centuries still." 

Thurs., May 12. — Goethe spoke with much enthusiasm 
of Menander. " I know no one, after Sophocles," said he, 
" whom I love so well. He is thoroughly pure, noble, 
great, and cheerful, and his grace is unattainable. It is 
certainly to be lamented that we possess so little of him, 
but that little is invaluable, and highly instructive to gifted 
men. 

"The great point is, that he from whom we would learn 
should be congenial to our nature. Now, Calderon, for 
instance, great as he is, and much as I admire him, has 
exerted no influence over me for good or for ill. But he 



154 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



would have been dangerous to Schiller — he would have 
led him astray ; and hence it is fortunate that Calderon 
was not generally known in Germany till after Schiller's 
death. Calderon is infinitely great in the technical and 
theatrical ; Schiller, on the contrary, far more sound, 
earnest, and great in his intention, and it would have been 
a pity if he had lost any of these virtues, without, after 
all, attaining the greatness of Calderon in other respects." 

We spoke of Moliere. " Moliere," said Goethe, " is so 
great, that one is astonished anew every time one reads 
him. He is a man by himself — his pieces border on 
tragedy ; they are apprehensive ; and no one has the courage 
to imitate them. His 'Miser,' where the vice destroys all 
the natural piety between father and son, is especially 
great, and in a high sense tragic. But when, in a German 
paraphrase, the son is changed into a relation, the whole is 
weakened, and loses its significance. They feared to show 
the vice in its true nature, as he did ; but what is tragic 
there, or indeed anywhere, except what is intolerable ? 

"I read some pieces of Moliere's every year, just as, 
from time to time, I contemplate the engravings after the 
great Italian masters. For we little men are not able to 
retain the greatness of such things within ourselves ; we 
must therefore return to them from time to time, and 
renew our impressions. 

" People are always talking about originality ; but what 
do they mean ? As soon as we are born, the world begins 
to work upon us, and this goes on to the end. And, after 
all, what can we call our own except energy, strength, and 
will ? If I could give an account of all that I owe to 
great predecessors and contemporaries, there would be but 
fi small balance in my favour. 

" However, the time of life in which we are subjected 
to a new and important personal influence is, by no means, 
a matter of indifference. That Lessing, Winckelmann, 
and Kant were older than I, and that the first two acted 
upon my youth, the latter on my advanced age, — this 
circumstance was for me very important. Again, that 
Schiller was so much younger than I, and engaged in his 
freshest strivings, just as I began to be weary of the 
world — just, too, as the brothers von Humboldt and 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 155 

Schlegel were beginning their career under my eye — 
was of the greatest importance. I derived from it un- 
speakable advantages." 

After these remarks respecting the influence which 
important persons had had upon him, the conversation 
turned on the influence which he had exerted over others ; 
and I mentioned Burger, whose case appeared to me 
problematical, inasmuch as his purely natural tendency 
showed no trace of influence on the part of Goethe. 

"Burger," said Goethe, "had an affinity to me as a 
talent ; but the tree of his moral culture had its root in a 
wholly different soil, and took a wholly different direction. 
Each man proceeds as he has begun, in the ascending line 
of his culture. A man who, in his thirtieth year, could 
write such a poem as ' Frau Schnips,' had obviously taken 
a path which deviated a little from mine. He had also, by 
his really great talents, won for himself a public which he 
perfectly satisfied ; and he had no need of troubling him- 
self about a contemporary who did not affect him at all. 

" Everywhere, we learn only from those whom we love. 
There is a favourable disposition towards me in the young 
talents who are now growing up, but I very rarely found 
it among my contemporaries. Nay, I can scarcely name 
one man, of any weight, who was perfectly satisfied with 
me. Even with ' Werther,' people found so much fault, 
that if I had erased every passage that was censured, 
scarcely a line of the whole book would have been left. 
However, all the censure did me no harm, for these sub- 
jective judgments of individuals, important as they may 
be, are at least rectified by the masses. He who does not 
expect a million of readers should not write a line. 

" For twenty years, the public has been disputing which 
is the greatest, Schiller or I ; and it ought to be glad that 
it has got a couple of fellows about whom it can dispute." 

(Sup.) Mon., June 5.* — Goethe related to me that Preller 
had been with him, and had taken leave, as he is going to 
spend some years in Italy. 

"As a parting word," said Goethe, "I counselled him 
not to allow himself to be distracted, but to confine himself 

* In the original this is dated 1826, but from its position in the 
volume it may be conjectured that this is a misprint. — Trans. 



156 CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. [1825 

particularly to Poussin and Claude Lorraine, and, above alL 
to study the works of these two great men, that he might 
plainly see how they regarded nature, and used her for the 
expression of their artistical views and f eelings. 

" Preller is an important talent, and I have no fear of 
him. He appears to me, besides, of a very earnest charac- 
ter. I am almost certain that he will rather incline to 
Poussin than to Claude Lorraine ; still I have particularly 
recommended him to study the latter — and not without 
reason ; for it is with the cultivation of an artist as with 
the cultivation of every other talent. Our strong points, to 
a certain extent, develope themselves ; but those germs of 
our nature which are not in daily exercise, and are there- 
fore less powerful, need particular care, in order that they 
may become strong likewise. 

" So may a young singer, as I have often said, possess 
certain natural tones which are very excellent, and which 
leave nothing to desire ; while other tones in his voice may 
be found less strong, clear, and full. But even these he 
must by constant exercise seek to bring to equal perfection 
with the others. 

" I am certain that Preller will one day succeed admir- 
ably in the solemn, the grand, and perhaps also the wild. 
Whether he will be equally happy in the cheerful, the 
graceful, and the lovely, is another question ; and there- 
fore have I especially recommended to him Claude Lorraine, 
in order that, by study, he may acquire that which does 
not lie in the actual tendency of his nature. 

" There is one thing more to which I called his attention. 
I have seen many of his studies from nature : they were 
excellent, and executed with great energy and life; but 
they were all isolated objects, of which little can after- 
wards be made when one comes to inventions of one's own. 
I have now advised him never for the future to delineate an 
isolated object, such as single trees, single heaps of stones, 
or single cottages, but always to add a background and 
some surrounding objects. 

" And for the following reasons. In nature we never see 
anything isolated, but everything in connection with some- 
thing else which is before it, beside it, under it, and over it. 
A single object, I grant, may strike us as particularly 



I82 5 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



157 



picturesque : it is not, however, the object alone which pro- 
duces this effect, but it is the connection in which we see it, 
with that which is beside, behind, and above it, all of which 
contributes to that effect. 

"Thus during a walk I may meet with an oak, the 
picturesque effect of which surprises me. But if I 
represent it alone, it will perhaps no longer appear to me as 
it did, because that is wanting which contributed to and 
enhanced the picturesque effect in nature. Thus, too, a 
wood may appear beautiful through the influence of one 
particular sky, one particular light, and one particular 
situation of the sun. But if I omit all these in my draw- 
ing, it will perhaps appear without any force, and as some- 
thing indifferent to which the proper charm is wanting. 

"Further; there is in nature nothing beautiful which 
is not produced (motivirt) as true in conformity with the 
laws of nature. In order that that truth of nature may 
also appear true in the picture, it must be accounted for by 
the introduction of the influential circumstances. 

" I find by a brook well-formed stones, the parts of 
which exposed to the air are in a picturesque manner 
covered with green moss. Now it is not alone the moisture 
of the water which has caused this formation of moss ; 
but perhaps a northerly aspect, or the shade of the trees 
and bushes, have co-operated in this formation at this part 
of the brook. If I omit these influential causes in my 
picture, it will be without truth, and without the proper 
convincing power. 

" Thus the situation of a tree, the kind of soil beneath 
it, and other trees behind and beside it, have a great in- 
fluence on its formation. An oak which stands exposed 
to the wind on the western summit of a rocky hill, will 
acquire quite a different form from that of one which 
grows below on the moist ground of a sheltered valley. 
Both may be beautiful in their kind, but they will have a 
very different character, and can, therefore, in an artisti- 
cally conceived landscape, only be used for such a situation 
as they occupied in nature. And therefore the delinea- 
tion of surrounding objects, by which any particular situa- 
tion is expressed, is of high importance to the artist. On 
the other hand, it would be foolish to attempt to represent 



158 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[l82 5 . 



all those prosaic casualties which have had as little in- 
fluence upon the form of the principal objects, as upon its 
picturesque effect for the moment. 

" I have imparted the substance of all these little hints 
to Preller, and I am certain that they will take root and 
thrive in him — as a born genius." 

Sat., June 11. — To-day Goethe talked much at dinner 
about Major Parry's book on Lord Byron. He gave it 
unqualified praise, and remarked that Lord Byron in this 
account appeared a far more complete character, and far 
more clear as to himself and his views, than in anything 
which had been written about him. 

"Major Parry," continued Goethe, "must be an ele- 
vated — nay, a noble man, so fully to have conceived, and 
so perfectly to have described, his friend. One passage in 
his book has pleased me particularly ; — it is worthy of an 
old Greek — of a Plutarch. ' The noble lord,' says Parry. 
4 was destitute of all those virtues which adorn the bourgeois 
class, and which he was prevented from attaining by his 
birth, education, and mode of life. Now all his unfavour- 
able judges are from the middle class, and these cen- 
soriously pity him, because they miss in him that which 
they have reason to prize in themselves. The good folks 
do not reflect that for his own high station he possessed 
virtues of which they can form no conception.' How do 
you like that ? " said Goethe : " we do not hear so good a 
thing every day." 

" I am glad," said I, "to see publicly expressed a view 
by which all the puny censors and detractors of a man 
highe^? than themselves must be at once disabled and cast 
down." 

We then spoke of subjects of universal history in rela- 
tion to poetry, and as to how far the history of one nation 
may be more favourable to the poet than that of another. 

" The poet," said Goethe, "should seize the Particular, 
and he should, if there be anything sound in it, thus re- 
present the Universal. The English history is excellent 
for poetry, because it is something genuine, healthy, and 
therefore universal, which repeats itself over and over 
again. The French history, on the contrary, is not for 
poetry, as it represents an era that cannot come again. 



I82 5 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



159 



The literature of the French, so far as it is founded on 
that era, stands as something of merely particular interest, 
which must grow old with time. 

" The present era of French literature," said Goethe 
afterwards, " cannot be judged fairly. The German 
influence causes a great fermentation there, and we 
probably shall not know for twenty years what the result 
will be." 

"We then talked of the aesthetic writers, who labour to 
express the nature of poetry and the poet in abstract defi- 
nitions, without arriving at any clear result. 

" What need of much definition ? " said Goethe. 
" Lively feeling of situations, and power to express them, 
make the poet." 

Wed., Oct 15. — I found Goethe in a very elevated mood 
this evening, and had the pleasure of hearing from him 
many significant remarks. We talked about the state of 
the newest literature, when Goethe expressed himself as 
follows : — 

" Deficiency of character in individual investigators and 
writers is," he said, "the source of all the evils of our 
newest literature. 

" In criticism, especially, this defect produces mischief 
to the world, for it either diffuses the false instead of the 
true, or by a pitiful truth deprives us of something great, 
that would be better. 

" Till lately, the world believed in the heroism of a 
Lucretia, — of a Mucius Scaevola, — and suffered itself, by 
this belief, to be warmed and inspired. But now comes 
your historical criticism, and says that those persons never 
lived, but are to be regarded as fables and fictions, divined 
by the great mind of the Romans. What are we to do 
with so pitiful a truth? If the Romans were great 
enough to invent such stories, we should at least be great 
enough to believe them. 

" Till lately, I was always pleased with a great fact in 
the thirteenth century, when the Emperor Frederic the 
Second was at variance with the Pope, and the north of 
Germany was open to all sorts of hostile attacks. Asiatic 
hordes had actually penetrated as far as Sileeia, when the 
Duke of Liegnitz terrified them by one great defeat. 



160 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE 



[1825. 



They then turned to Moravia, but were here defeated by 
Connt Sternberg. These valiant men had on this account 
been living in my heart as the great saviours of the Ger- 
man nation. But now comes historical criticism, and says 
that these heroes sacrificed themselves quite uselessly, as 
the Asiatic army was already recalled, and would have 
returned of its own accord. Thus is a great national fact 
crippled and destroyed, which seems to me most abomin- 
able." 

After these remarks on historical critics, Goethe spoke of 
another class of seekers and literary men. 

" I could never," said he, " have known so well how 
paltry men are, and how little they care for really high 
aims, if I had not tested them by my scientific researches. 
Thus I saw that most men only care for science so far as 
they get a living by it, and that they worship even error 
when it affords them a subsistence. 

" In belles lettres it is no better. There, too, high aims 
and genuine love for the true and sound, and for their 
diffusion, are very rare phenomena. One man cherishes 
and tolerates another, because he is by him cherished and 
tolerated in return. True greatness is hateful to them ; 
they would fain drive it from the world, so that only such 
as they might be of importance in it. Such are the 
masses ; and the prominent individuals are not better. 

" 's great talents and world- embracing learning 

might have done much for his country. But his want of 
character has deprived the world of such great results, 
and himself of the esteem of the country. 

" We want a man like Lessing. For how was he great, 
except in character, — in firmness ? There are many men 
as clever and as cultivated, but where is such character ? 

" Many are full of esprit and knowledge, but they are 
also full of vanity ; and that they may shine as wits before 
the short-sighted multitude, they have no shame or 
delicncy — nothing is sacred to them. 

" Madame de Genlis was therefore perfectly right when 
she declaimed against the freedoms and profanities of 
Voltaire. Clever as they all may be, the world has derived 
no profit from them ; they afford a foundation for nothing. 
Nay, they have been of the greatest injury, since they 



1825.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 161 

have confused men, and robbed them of their needful 
support. 

" After all, what do we know, and how far can we go 
with all our wit ? 

" Man is born not to solve the problems of the universe, 
but to find out where the problem begins, and then to 
restrain himself within the limits of the comprehensible. 

" His faculties are not sufficient to measure the action.-, 
of the universe ; and an attempt to explain the outer 
world by reason is, with his narrow point of view, but a 
vain endeavour. The reason of man and the reason of the 
Deity are two very different things. 

"If we grant freedom to man, there is an end to the 
omniscience of God ; for if the Divinity knows how I 
shall act, I must act so perforce. I give this merely as a 
sign how little we know, and to show that it is not good 
to meddle with divine mysteries. 

"Moreover, we should only utter higher maxims so far 
as they can benefit the world. The rest we should keep 
within ourselves, and they will diffuse over our actions a 
lustre like the mild radiance of a hidden sun." 

Sun., Dec. 25. — I went to Goethe this evening at six 
o'clock. I found him alone, and passed with him some 
delightful hours. 

" My mind," said he, " has of late been burdened by 
many things. So much good has been flowing in to me 
on all sides, that the mere ceremony of returning thanks 
has prevented me from having any practical life. The 
privileges respecting the publication of my works have 
been gradually coming in from the different courts ; and as 
the position was different in each case, each required a 
different answer. Then came the proposals of innumer- 
able booksellers, which also had to be considered, acted 
upon, and answered. Then my Jubilee has brought me 
such thousand-fold attentions, that I have not yet got 
through with my letters of acknowledgment. I cannot 
be content with hollow generalities, but wish to say some- 
thing appropriate to every one. Now I am gradually be- 
coming free, and feel again disposed for conversation. 

" I have of late made an observation, which I will im- 
part to you. 

H 



162 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



"Everything we do has a result. But that which is 
right and prudent does not always lead to good, nor the 
contrary to what is bad ; frequently the reverse takes 
place. Some time since, I made a mistake in one of these 
transactions with booksellers, and was sorry that I had 
done so. But now circumstances have so altered, that, if 
I had not made that very mistake, I should have made a 
greater one. Such instances occur frequently in life, and 
hence we see men of the world, who know this, going to 
work with great freedom and boldness." 

I was struck by this remark, which was new to me. 

I then turned the conversation to some of his works, and 
we came to the elegy " Alexis and Dora." 

" In this poem," said Goethe, " people have blamed the 
strong, passionate conclusion, and would have liked the 
elegy to end gently and peacefully, without that outbreak 
of jealousy ; but I could not see that they were right. 
Jealousy is so manifestly an ingredient of the affair, that 
the poem would be incomplete if it were not introduced 
at all. I myself knew a young man who, in the midst 
of his impassioned love for an easily- won maiden, cried 
out, ' But would she not act to another as she has acted to 
me ? ' " 

I agreed entirely with Goethe, and then mentioned the 
peculiar situations in this elegy, where, with so few strokes 
and in so narrow a space, all is so well delineated, that we 
think we see the whole life and domestic environment of 
the persons engaged in the action. " What you have 
described," said I, "appears as true as if you had worked 
from actual experience." 

"I am glad it seems so to you," said Goethe. " There 
are, however, few men who have imagination for the truth 
of reality ; most prefer strange countries and circum- 
stances, of which they know nothing, and by which their 
imagination may be cultivated, oddly enough. 

" Then there are others who cling altogether to reality, 
and, as they wholly want the poetic spirit, are too severe 
in their requisitions. For instance, in this elegy, some 
would have had me give Alexis a servant to carry his 
bundle, never thinking that all that was poetic and idyllic 
in the situation would thus have been destroyed." 



I82 S .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



163 



From "Alexis and Dora," the conversation then turned 
to "Wilhelm Meister." "There are odd critics in this 
"world," said Goethe; "they blamed me for letting the 
hero of this novel live so mnch in bad company ; but by 
this very circumstance, that I considered this so called bad 
company as a vase, into which I could put everything I had 
to say about good society, I gained a poetical body, and a 
varied one into the bargain. Had I, on the contrary, de- 
lineated good society by the so-called good society, nobody 
would have read the book. 

" In the seeming trivialities of ' Wilhelm Meister ' there 
is always something higher at bottom, and nothing is re- 
quired but eyes and knowledge of the world, and power of 
comprehension to perceive the great in the small. For 
those who are without such qualities, let it suffice to receive 
the picture of life as real life." 

Goethe then showed me a very interesting English work, 
which illustrated all Shakspeare in copper plates. Each 
page embraced, in six small designs, one piece with some 
verses written beneath, so ihat the leading idea and the 
most important situations of each work were brought 
before the eyes. All these immortal tragedies and come- 
dies thus passed before the mind like processions of 
masks. 

"It is even terrifying," said Goethe, "to look through 
these little pictures. Thus are we first made to feel the 
infinite wealth and grandeur of Shakspeare. There is no 
motive in human life which he has not exhibited and 
expressed ! And all with what ease and freedom ! 

" But we cannot talk about Shakspeare ; everything is 
inadequate. I have touched upon the subject in my 
' Wilhelm Meister,' but that is not saying much. He is 
not a theatrical poet ; he never thought of the stage ; it 
was far too narrow for his great mind : nay, the whole 
visible world was too narrow. 

" He is even too rich and too powerful. A productive 
nature * ought not to read more than one of his dramas in 
£»• year if it would not be wrecked entirely. I did well to 

* Vide p. 185, where a remark is made on the word nature, as ap. 
plied to a persen. — Trans. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1825. 



r;et rid of Mm by writing ' Goetz,' and 1 Egmont,' * and 
Byron did well by not having too much respect and ad- 
miration for him, but going his own way. How many 
excellent Germans have been ruined by him and Calderon ! 

"Shakspeare gives us golden apples in silver dishes. 
We get, indeed, the silver dishes by studying his works ; 
but, unfortunately, we have only potatoes to put into 
them." 

I laughed, and was delighted with this admirable simile. 

Goethe then read me a letter from Zelter, describing a 
representation of Macbeth at Berlin, where the music could 
not keep pace with the grand spirit and character of the 
piece, as Zelter set forth by various intimations. By 
Goethe's reading, the letter gained its full effect, and he 
often paused to admire with me the point of some single 
passage. 

" 1 Macbeth,' said Goethe, " is Shakspeare's best acting 
play, the one in which he shows most understanding with 
respect to the stage. But would you see his mind unfet- 
tered, read ' Troilus and Cressida,' where he treats the 
materials of the ' Iliad ' in his own fashion." 

The conversation turned upon Byron, — the disadvantage 
to which he appears when placed beside the innocent 
cheerfulness of Shakspeare, and the frequent and generally 
not unjust blame which he drew upon himself by his mani- 
fold works of negation. 

" If Lord Byron," said Goethe, "had had an opportunity 
of working off all the opposition in his character, by a num- 
ber of strong parliamentary speeches, he would have been 
much more pure as a poet. But, as he scarcely ever spoke 
in parliament, he kept within himself all his feelings 
against his nation, and to free himself from them, he had no 
other means than to express them in poetical form. I 
could, therefore, call a great part of Byron's works of ne- 
gation 'suppressed parliamentary speeches,' and think this 
would be no bad name for them." 

We then mentioned one of our most modern German 

* These plays were intended to be in the Shaksperian style, and 
Goethe means that by writing them he freed himself from Shakspeare, 
just as by writing ' Werther ' he freed himself from thoughts of 

suicide. — Trai is. 



I-S25.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 165 

poets, Platen, who had lately gained a great name, and 
whose negative tendency was likewise disapproved. " We 
cannot deny," said Goethe, "that he has many bril- 
liant qualities, but he is wanting in — love. He loves 
his readers and his fellow-poets as little as he loves him- 
self, and thus we may apply to him the maxim of the 
apostle — ' Though I speak with the tongues of men and 
angels, and have not love (charity), I am become as 
sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." I have lately 
read the poems of Platen, and cannot deny his great 
talent. But, as I said, he is deficient in love, and thus he 
will never produce the effect which he ought. He will 
be feared, and will be the idol of those who would like 
to be as negative as himself, but have not his talent." 



1826. 

Sun. evening, Jan. 29. — The most celebrated German 
improvisatore, Dv. Wolff of Hamburg, has been here 
several days, and has already given public proof of his rare 
talent. On Friday evening he gave a brilliant display to a 
numerous audience, and in the presence of the court of 
Weimar. On the same evening he received from Goethe 
an invitation to come to him the next day at noon. 

I talked with him yesterday evening, after he had im- 
provised before Goethe. He was much delighted, and 
declared that this hour would make an epoch in his life ; 
for Goethe, by a few words, had opened to him a wholly 
new path, and when he had found fault with him, had hit 
the right nail on the head. 

This evening, when I was at Goethe's, the conversation 
turned immediately on Wolff. " Dr. Wolff is very happy," 
said I, " that your excellency has given him good counsel." 

" I was perfectly frank with him," said Goethe, "and 
if my words have made an impression on him and incited 
him, that is a very good sign. He is a decided talent with- 
out doubt, but he has the general sickness of the present 
day — subjectivity — and of that I would fain heal him. I 
gave him a task to try him: — 'Describe to me,' said I, 
" your return to Hamburg.' He was ready at once, and 



106 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1826. 



began immediately to speak in melodious verses. I conld 
not but admire him, yet I conld not praise him. It was 
not a return to Hamburg that he described, but merely the 
emotions on the return of a son to his parents, relations, 
and friends ; and his poem would have served just as well 
for a return to Merseburg or Jena, as for a return to 
Hamburg. Yet what a remarkable, peculiar city is Ham, 
burg ! and what a rich field was offered him for the most 
minute description, if he had known or ventured to take 
hold of the subject properly ! " 

I remarked that this subjective tendency was the 
fault of the public, which decidedly applauds all senti- 
mentality. 

" Perhaps so." said Goethe ; " but the public is still more 
pleased if you give it something better. I am certain that 
if. with Wolff's talent sit i'^orDvisation, one could faith- 
fully describe the life of great cities, such as Rome, Naples. 
Vienna, Hamburg, or London, and that in such a lively 
manner, that one's hearers would believe they saw with 
their own eyes, everybody would be enchanted. If he breaks 
through to the objective, he is saved, the stuff is in him j 
for he is not without imagination. Only he must make up 
his mind at once, and strive to grasp it." 

"I fear/' said I, "that this will be harder than we imagine, 
since it demands entire regeneration of his mode of thought. 
Even if he succeeds, he will, at all events, come to a 
momentary standstill with his production, and long prac- 
tice will be required to make the objective become a second 
nature." 

u The step I grant is very great," said Goethe; "but he 
must take courage, and make his resolution at once. It is 
in such matters, like the dread of water in bathing — we 
must jump in at once, and the element is ours. 

" If a person learns to sing," continued Goethe, "all the 
notes which are within his natural compass are easy to him, 
while those which He beyond the compass are at first ex- 
tremely difficult. But to be a vocalist, he must conquer 
them, for he must have them all at command. Jus: so 
with the poet ; — he deserves not the name while he only 
speaks out his few subjective feelings ; but as soon as he 
can appropriate to himself, and express the world, he is a 



i8z6.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



167 



poet. Then he is inexhaustible, and can be always new, 
while a subjective nature has soon talked out his little 
internal material, and is at last ruined by mannerism. 
People always talk of the study of the ancients ; but what 
does that mean, except that it says, turn your attention to 
the real world, and try to express it, for that is what the 
ancients did when they were alive." 

Goethe arose and walked to and fro, while 1 remained 
seated at the table, as he likes to see me. He stood 
a moment at the stove, and then, like one who has 
reflected, came to me, and with his finger on his lips, said, 

" I will now tell you something which you will often find 
confirmed in your experience. All eras in a state of decline 
and dissolution are subjective ; on the other hand, all pro- 
gressive eras have an objective tendency. Our present time 
is retrograde, for it is subjective : we see this not merely 
in poetry, but also in painting, and much besides. Every 
healthy effort, on the contrary, is directed from the inward 
to the outward world, as you will see in all great eras, 
which have been really in a state of progression, and all of 
an objective nature." 

These remarks led to a most interesting conversation, in 
which especial mention was made of the great period of the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

The conversation now turned upon the theatre, and the 
weak, sentimental, gloomy character of modern productions. 

"Moliere is my strength and consolation at present," 
said I ; "I have translated his 'Avare,' and am now busy 
with his ' Medicin malgre lui.' Moliere is indeed a great, a 
genuine (remer) man." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "a genuine man; that is the proper 
term. There is nothing distorted about him. He ruled the 
manners of his day, while, on the contrary, our Iffiand and 
Kotzebue allowed themselves to be ruled by theirs, and 
were limited and confined in them. Moliere chastised men 
by drawing them just as they were." 

"I would give something," said I, "to see his plays acted 
in all their purity ! Yet such things are much too strong 
and natural for the public, so far as I am acquainted with 
it. Is not this over-refinement to be attributed to the so- 
called ideal literature of certain authors ?" 



168 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1826. 

"No," said Goethe, "it has its source in society itself. 
What business have our young girls at the theatre ? They 
do not belong to it — they belong to the convent, and the 
theatre is only for men and women, who know something 
of human affairs. When Moliere wrote, girls were in the 
convent, and he was not forced to think about them. But 
now we cannot get rid of these young girls, and pieces which 
are weak, and therefore proper, will continue to be produced. 
Be wise and stay away, as I do. I was really interested in 
the theatre only so long as I could have a practical influence 
upon it. It was my delight to bring the establishment to a 
high degree of perfection ; and when there was a perform- 
ance, my interest was not so much in the pieces as in ob- 
serving whether the actors played as they ought. The faults 
I wished to point out I sent in writing to the Begisseur, and 
was sure they would be avoided on the next representation. 
Now I can no longer have any practical influence in the 
theatre, I feel no calling to enter it ; 1 should be forced to 
endure defects without being able to amend them ; and that 
would not suit me. And with the reading of plays, it is no 
better. The young German poets are eternally sending me 
tragedies ; but what am I to do with them ? I have never 
read German plays except with the view of seeing whether 
I could act them ; in every other respect they were indifferent 
to me. What am I to do now, in my present situation, with 
the pieces of these young people ? I can gain nothing for 
myself by reading how things ought not to be done ; and I 
cannot assist the young poets in a matter which is already 
finished. If, instead of their printed plays, they would 
send me the plan of a play, I could at least say, ' Do it,' or 
' Leave it alone,' or ' Do it this way,' or ' Do it that ; ' and 
in this there might be some use. 

" The whole mischief proceeds from this, that poetical 
culture is so widely diffused in Germany that nobody now 
ever makes a bad verse. The young poets who send me 
their- works are not inferior to their predecessors, and, since 
they see these praised so highly, they cannot understand 
why they are not praised also. And yet we cannot encour- 
age them, when talents of the sort exist by hundreds ; and 
we ought not to favour superfluities while so much that is 
useful remains to be done. Were there a single one 



iSz6.] 



GONVEESATIONS OF GOETHE. 



169 



who towered above all the rest, it would be well, for the 
world can only be served by the extraordinary." 

Thurs., Feb. 16. — I went, at seven this evening, to Goethe, 
whom I found alone in his room. I sat down by him at 
the table, and told him that yesterday I had seen, at the 
inn, the Duke of Wellington, who was passing through on 
his way to St. Petersburg. " Indeed ! " said Goethe, with 
animation ; " what was he like ? — tell me all about him. 
Does he look like his portrait ? " 

"Yes," said I; "bat better, with more of marked 
character. If you ever look at his face, all the portraits 
are nought. One need only see him once never to forget 
him, such an impression does he make. His eyes are brown, 
and of the serenest brilliancy; one feels the effect of his 
glance ; his mouth speaks, even when it is closed ; he looks 
a man who has had many thoughts, and has lived through 
the greatest deeds, who now can handle the world serenely 
and calmly, and whom nothing more can disturb. He 
seemed to me as hard and as tempered as a Damascus blade. 
By his appearance, he is far advanced in the fifties ; is up- 
right, slim, and not very tall or stout. I saw him getting 
into his carriage to depart. There was something uncom- 
monly cordial in his salutation as he passed through the 
crowd, and, with a very slight bow, touched his hat with 
his finger." Goethe listened to my description with visible 
interest. "You have seen one hero more," said he, "and 
that is saying something." 

We then talked of Napoleon, and I lamented that I had 
never seen him. 

"Truly," said Goethe, "that also was worth the trouble. 
What a compendium of the world! " "Did he look like 
something ? " asked I. " He ivas something," replied 
Goethe ; "and he looked what he was — that was all." 

I had brought with me for Goethe a very remarkable 
poem, of which I had spoken to him some evenings before 
— a poem of his own, written so long since that he had 
quite forgotten it. It was printed in the beginning of the 
year 1776, in "Die Sichtbaren" (the Visible), a periodical 
published at the time in Frankfort, and had been brought 
to Weimar by an old servant of Goethe's, through whom 
it had fallen into my hands. Undoubtedly it is the 



170 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1826. 



earliest known poem of Goethe's. The subject was the 
" Descent of Christ into Hell ; " and it was remarkable to 
observe the readiness of the young author with his religious 
images. The purpose of the poem might have suited 
Klopstock; but the execution was quite of a different 
character ; it was stronger, freer, and more easy, and had 
greater energy and better arrangement. The extraordinary 
ardour reminded one of a period of youth, full of im- 
petuosity and power. Through a want of subject matter, 
it constantly reverted to the same point, and was of undue 
length. 

I placed before Goethe the yellow, worn-out paper, and 
as soon as he saw it he remembered his poem. " It is pos- 
sible," said he, "that Fraulein von Klettenberg induced me 
to write it : the heading shows that it was written by desire, 
and I know not any other friend who could have desired 
such a subject. I was then in want of materials, and was 
rejoiced when I got anything that I could sing. Lately, a 
poem of that period fell into my hands, which I wrote in 
the English language, and in which I complained of the 
dearth of poetic subjects. We Germans are really ill off in 
that respect ; our earliest history lies too much in obscurity, 
and the later is without general native interest, through the 
want of one ruling dynasty. Klopstock tried Arminius, 
but the subject lies too far off ; nobody feels any connection 
with it ; no one knows what to make of it, and accordingly 
it has never been popular, or produced any result. I made 
a happy hit with my ' Goetz von Berlichingen ; ' that was. 
at any rate, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, and 
something could be done with it. 

"For 'Werther' and 'Faust' I was, on the contrary, 
obliged to draw upon my own bosom, for that which was 
handed down to me did not go far. I made devils and 
witches but once ; I was glad when I had consumed my 
northern inheritance, and turned to the tables of the Greeks. 
Had I earlier known how many excellent things have been 
in existence for hundreds of years, I should not have 
written a line, but should have done something else." 

Easter- day, Mar. 26. — To-day, at dinner. Goethe was in 
one of his pleasantest moods. He had received something he 
highly valued, Lord Byron's maun script of the dedication 



1826.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 171 

to his " Sardanapalus." He showed it to us after dinner, 
at the same time teazing his daughter to give him back 
Byron's letter from Genoa. "Yon see, my dear child," 
said he, " I have now everything collected which relates to 
my connection with Byron ; e^en this valuable paper comes 
to me to-day, in a remarkable manner, and now nothing is 
wanting but that letter." 

However, the amiable admirer of Byron would not re- 
store the letter. " You gave it to me once, dear father," 
said she, " and I shall not give it back ; and if you wish, as 
is fit, that like should be with like, you had better give me 
the precious paper of to-day, and I will keep them all 
together." This was still more repugnant to Goethe, and 
the playful contest lasted for some time, when it merged 
into general lively conversation. 

After we had risen from table, and the ladies had gone 
upstairs, I remained with Goethe alone. He brought 
from his work-room a red portfolio, which he took to the 
window, and showed me its contents. " Look," said he, 
" here I have everything together which relates to my con- 
nection with Lord Byron. Here is his letter from Leghorn ; 
this is a copy of his dedication ; this is my poem ; and here 
is what I wrote for ' Medwin's Conversations ; ' now, I only 
want the letter from Genoa, and she will not give it me." 

Goethe then told me of a friendly request, which had 
this day been made to him from England, with reference 
to Lord Byron, and which had excited him in a very 
pleasant manner. His mind was just now quite full of 
Byron, and he said a thousand interesting things about 
• him, his works, and his talents. 

" The English," said he, among other things, " may 
think of Byron as they please ; but this is certain, that they 
can show no poet who is to be compared to him. He is dif- 
ferent from all the others, and, for the most part, greater." 

Mon., May 15. — I talked with Goethe to-day about St. 
Schiitze, of whom he spoke very kindly. " When I was ill 
a few weeks since," said he, " I read his ' Heitere Stunden ' 
(Cheerful Hours) with great pleasure. If Schiitze had 
lived in England, he would have made an epoch ; for, with 
his gift of observing and depicting, nothing was wanting 
but the sight of life on a large scale." 



172 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1826. 



Thurs., June 1.— Goethe spoke of the " Globe." * " The 
contributors," said he, " are men of the world, cheerful, 
clear in their views, bold to the last degree. In their cen- 
sure they are polished and galant ; whereas our German 
literati always think they must hate those who do not 
think like themselves. I consider the 1 Globe ' one of our 
most interesting periodicals, and could not do without it." 

Wed., July 26. — This evening I had the pleasure of hear- 
ing Goethe say a great deal about the theatre. 

I told him that one of my friends intended to arrange 
Lord Byron's " Two Foscari " for the stage. Goethe 
doubted his success. 

"It is indeed a temptation," he said. " When a piece 
makes a deep impression on us in reading, we think it 
will do the same on the stage, and that we could obtain 
such a result with little trouble. But this is by no means 
the case. A piece that is not originally, by the intent 
and skill of the poet, written for the boards, will nor 
succeed ; but whatever is done to it, will always remain 
something unmanageable. What trouble have I taken with 
my 4 Goetz von Berlichingen ! ' yet it will not go right as 
an acting play, but is too long ; and I have been forced to 
divide it into two parts, of which the last is indeed thea- 
trically effective, while the first is to be looked upon as a 
mere introduction. If the first part were given only once 
as an introduction, and then the second repeatedly, it 
might succeed. It is the same with ' Wallenstein : ' ' The 
Piccolomini' does not bear repetition, but ' Wallenstein's 
Death ' is always seen with delight." 

I asked how a piece must be constructed so as to be fit 
for the theatre. 

" It must be symbolical," replied Goethe ; "that is to say, 
each incident must be significant in itself, and lead to 
another still more important. The ' Tartuffe ' of Moliere 
is, in this respect, a great example. Only think what an 
introduction is the first scene ! From the very beginning 
everything is highly significant, and leads us to expect 
something still more important which is to come. The 
beginning of Lessing's ' Minna von Barnhelm' is also 



* The celebrated French paper. — Trans. 



i8z6.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



173 



admirable; but that of the * Tartuffe' comes only once 
into the world : it is the greatest and best thing that exists 
of the kind." 

We then came to the pieces of Calderon. 

"In Calderon," said Goethe, " you find the same perfect 
adaptation to the theatre. His pieces are throughout fit 
for the boards ; there is not a touch in them which is 
not directed towards the required effect. Calderon is a 
genius who had also the finest understanding." 

"It is singular," said I, "that the dramas of Shakspeare 
are not theatrical pieces, properly so called, since he wrote 
them all for his theatre." 

" Shakspeare," replied Goethe, " wrote those pieces 
direct from his own nature. Then, too, his age, and the 
existing arrangements of the stage, made no demands upon 
him ; people were forced to put up with whatever he 
gave them. But if Shakspeare had written for the court 
of Madrid, or for the theatre of Louis XIV., he would 
probably have adapted himself to a severer theatrical 
form. This, however, is by no means to be regretted, for 
what Shakspeare has lost as a theatrical poet he has 
gained as a poet in general. Shakspeare is a great psycho- 
logist, and we learn from his pieces the secrets of human 
nature." * 

We then talked of the difficulties in managing a theatre. 

" The knotty point," said Goethe, " is so to deal with 
contingencies that we are not tempted to deviate from our 
higher maxims. Among the higher maxims is this : to 
keep a good repertoire of excellent tragedies, operas, and 
comedies, to which we can adhere, and which may be 
regarded as permanent. Among contingencies, I reckon a 
new piece about which the public is anxious, a ' starring ' 
character (Gastrolle), and so forth. We must not be led 
astray by things of this kind, but always return to our 
repertoire. Our time is so rich in really good pieces, that 
nothing is easier to a connoisseur than to form a good 
repertoire; but nothing is more difficult to maintain one. 

" When Schiller and I superintended the theatre, we had 
the great advantage of playing through the summer at 

* Wie den Menschen zu Muthe ist. The above is only an approxi- 
mation. — Trans. 



174 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1826. 



Lauchstadt. There we had a select audience, who would 
have nothing but what was excellent ; so we always re- 
turned to Weimar thoroughly practised in the best plays, 
and could repeat all our summer performances in the winter. 
Besides, the Weimar public had confidence in our manage- 
ment, and, even in the case of things they could not appre- 
ciate, they were convinced that we acted in accordance with 
some higher view. 

" When the nineties began," continued Goethe, " the 
proper period of my interest in the theatre was already past, 
and I wrote nothing for the stage, but wished to devote 
myself to epic poetry. Schiller revived my extinct interest, 
and, for the sake of his works, I again took part -in the 
theatre. At the time of my ' Clavigo,' I could easily have 
written a dozen theatrical pieces. I had no want of sub- 
jects, and production was easy to me. I might have 
written a piece every week, and I am sorry I did not." 

Wed., Nov. 8. — To-day, Goethe spoke again of Lord 
Byron with admiration. "I have," said he, "read once 
more his ' Deformed Transformed,' and must say that to 
me his talent appears greater than ever. His devil was 
suggested by my Mephistophiles ; but it is no imitation — it 
is thoroughly new and original, close, genuine, and spirited. 
There are no weak passages — not a place where you could 
put the head of a pin, where you do not find invention and 
thought. Were it not for his hypochondriacal negative- 
turn, he would be as great as Shakspeare and the ancients." 
I expressed surprise. 

"Yes," said Goethe, "you may believe me. I have 
studied him anew, and am confirmed in this opinion." 

In a conversation some time ago, Geothe had remarked 
that Byron had too much em/peiria.* I did not well under- 
stand what he meant ; but I forbore to ask, and thought of 
the matter in silence. However, I got nothing by reflec- 
tion, and found that I must wait till my improved culture, 
or some happy circumstance, should unlock the secret for 
me. Such an one occurred when an excellent representa- 
tion of " Macbeth " at the theatre produced a strong effect 

* The import of this Greek word for "experience," and its cognate 
word " empiric," has nothing in common with the notion of " quack- 
ery." The general meaning is, that Byron is too worldly. — Trans. 



1826.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 175 

upon me, and on the day afterwards I took np Byron's 
works to read his "Beppo." Now, I felt I could not relish 
this poem after " Macbeth ; " and the more I read, the more 
I becpme enlightened as to Goethe's meaning. 

In " Macbeth," a spirit had impressed me, whose grandeur, 
power, and sublimity could have proceeded from none but 
Shakspeare. There was the innate quality of a high and 
deep nature, which raises the individual who possesses it 
above all mankind, and thus makes him a great poet. 
Whatever has been given to this piece by knowledge of the 
world or experience was subordinate to the poetic spirit, 
and served only to make this speak out and predominate. 
The great poet ruled us and lifted us up to his own point of 
view. 

While reading " Beppo," on the contrary, I felt the pre- 
dominance of a nefarious empirical world, with which the 
mind which introduced it to us had, in a certain measure^ 
associated itself. I no more found the great and pure 
thoughts of a highly-gifted poet, but, by frequent inter- 
coarse with the world, the poet's mode of thought seemed 
to have acquired the same stamp. He seemed to be on the 
same level with all intellectual men of the world of the 
higher class, being only distinguished from them by his 
great talent for representation, so that he might be re- 
garded as their mouthpiece. 

So I felt, in reading u Beppo," that Lord Byron had too 
much empeiria, not because he brought too much real life 
before us, but because the higher poetic nature seemed to 
be silent, or even expelled by an empiric mode of thought. 

Wed., Nov. 29. — I had now also read Lord Byron's M De- 
formed Transformed," and talked with Goethe about it after 
dinner. 

" Am I not right ? " said he ; " the first scenes are great 
— politically great. The remainder, when the subject 
•wanders to the siege of Rome, I will not call poetical, but 
it must be averred that it is very pointed * (geistreich)." 

" To the highest degree," said I ; " but there is no art in 
being pointed when one respects nothing." 

Goethe laughed. " You are not quite wrong," said he. 

* " Pointed " ia only an approximation, — the word here means 
"full of esprit." — Trans. 



176 C01TVERSATI0NS OF GOETHE. [1826. 

"We must, indeed, confess that the poet says more than 
ought to be said. He tells us the truth, but it is disagreeable, 
and we should like him better if he held his peace. There 
are things in the world which the poet should rather con- 
ceal than disclose ; but this openness lies in Byron's cha- 
racter, and you would annihilate him if you made him other 
than he is." 

" Yes," said I, "he is in the highest degree pointed. How 
excellent, for instance, is this passage — 

' The devil speaks truth much oftener than he's deemed ; 
He hath an ignorant audience ? ' " 

" That is as good and as free as one of my Mepliis- 
tophiles' sayings." 

" Since we are talking of Mephistophiles," continued 
Goethe, " I will show you something which Coudray has 
brought me from Paris. What do you think of it ? " 

He laid before me a lithograph, representing the scene 
where Faust and Mephistophiles, on their way to free 
Margaret from prison, are rushing by the gallows at night 
on two horses. Faust rides a black horse, which gallops 
with all its might, and seems, as well as his rider, afraid of 
the spectres under the gallows. They ride so fast that 
Faust can scarcely keep his seat ; the current of air has 
blown off his cap, which, fastened by straps about his neck, 
flies far behind him. He has turned his fearful inquiring 
face to Mephistophiles, and is listening to his words. Me- 
phistophiles, on the contrary, sits quiet and undisturbed, 
like a being of a higher order. He rides no living horse, 
for he loves not what is living ; indeed, he does not need it, 
for his will moves him with the swiftness he requires. He 
has a horse merely because he must look as if he were 
riding, and it has been quite enough for him to find a beast 
that is a mere bag of bones, from the first field he has come 
to. It is of a bright colour, and seems to be phosphor- 
escent amid the darkness of night. It is neither bridled nor 
saddled, but goes without such appendages. The super- 
natural rider sits easily and negligently, with his face 
turned towards Faust, in conversation. The opposing 
element of air does not exist for him ; neither he nor his 
horse feel anything of it. Xot a hair of either is stirred. 

We expressed much pleasure at this ingenious composi- 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



177 



tion. " I must aver," said Goethe, "that I myself did not 
think it out so perfectly. Here is another. What say you 
to this ? " 

I saw a representation of the wild drinking scene in 
Auerbach's cellar, at the all-important moment when the 
wine sparkles up into flames, and the brutality of the drinkers 
is shown in the most varied ways. All is passion and 
movement; Mephistophiles also maintains his usual com- 
posure. The wild cursing and screaming, and the drawn 
knife of the man who stands next him, are to him nothing. 
He has seated himself on a corner of the table, dangling 
his legs. His upraised finger is enough to subdue flame 
and passion. 

The more one looked at this excellent design, the greater 
seemed the intelligence of the artist, who made no figure 
like another, but in each one expressed some different part 
of the action. 

"M. Delacroix," said Goethe, "is a man of great talent, 
who found in ' Faust ' his proper aliment. The French 
censure his wildness, but it suits him well here. He will, 1 
hope, go through all 'Faust,' and I anticipate a special 
pleasure from the witches' kitchen and the scenes on the 
Brocken. We can see that he has a good knowledge of 
life, for which a city like Paris has given him the best 
opportunity." 

I observed that these designs greatly conduce to the com- 
prehension of a poem. 

"Undoubtedly," said Goethe; "for the more perfect 
imagination of such an artist constrains us to think the 
situations as beautiful as he conceived them himself. And 
if I must confess that M. Delacroix has, in some scenes, 
surpassed my own notions, how much more will the reader 
find all in full life, and surpassing his imagination." 

Mon., Dec. 11. — I found Goethe in a very happy mood. 
" Alexander von Humboldt has been some hours with me 
this morning," said he, coming to meet me with great 
vivacity ; " what a man he is ! Long as I have known him, 
he ever surprises me anew. One may say he has not his 
equal in knowledge and living wisdom. Then he has a 
many-sidedness such as I have found nowhere else. On 
whatever point you approach him, he is at home, and 

N 



178 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1826. 



lavishes upon us his intellectual treasures. He is like a 
fountain with many pipes, under which you need only hold 
a vessel, and from which refreshing and inexhaustible 
streams are ever flowing. He will stay here some days ; 
and I already feel that it will he with me as if I had lived 
for years." 

Wed., Dec. 13. — At table, the ladies praised a portrait 
by a young painter. "What is most surprising," they 
iidded, "he has learned everything by himself." This could 
be seen particularly in the hands, which were not correctly 
and artistically drawn. " We see," said Goethe, " that the 
young man has talent ; however, you should not praise, but 
rather blame him, for learning everything by himself. A 
man of talent is not born to be left to himself, but to devote 
himself to art and good masters, who will make something 
out of him. I have lately read a letter from Mozart, 
where, in reply to a Baron who had sent him his composi- 
tion, he writes somewhat in this fashion — 

" ' You dillettanti must be blamed for two faults, since 
two you generally have ; either you have no thoughts of 
your own, and take those of others, or, if you have 
thoughts of your own, you do not know what to do with 
them.' 

"Is not this capital? and does not this fine remark, 
which Mozart makes about music, apply to all other arts ? " 

Goethe continued : " Leonardo da Vinci says, 1 If your 
son has not sense enough to bring out what he draws by a 
bold shadowing, so that we can grasp it with our hands, 
he has no talent.' 

"Further, Leonardo da Vinci says, 4 If your son is 
a perfect master of perspective and anatomy, send him to a 
good master.' 

"And now," said Goethe, "our young artists scarcely 
understand either when they leave their masters. So much 
have times altered." 

" Our young painters," continued Goethe, " lack heart 
and intellect. Their inventions express nothing and effect 
nothing : they paint swords which do not cut, and arrows 
which do not hit ; and I often think, in spite of myself, 
that all intellect has vanished from the world." 

" And yet," I replied, " we should naturally think that 



1826.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



179 



the great military events of latter years would have stirred 
the intellect." 

" They have stirred the will more than the intellect," said 
Goethe, "and the poetical intellect more than the artis- 
tical, while all naivete and sensuousness are lost. Without 
these two great requisites how can a painter produce any- 
thing in which we can take any pleasure ? " 

I said that I had lately, in his " Italian Travels," read of 
a picture by Correggio, which represents a "weaning," and 
in which the Infant Christ in Mary's lap stands in doubt 
between his mother's breast and a pear held before him, 
and does not know which of the two to choose. 

"Aye," said Goethe, "there is a little picture for you! 
There are mind, naivete, sensuousness, all together. The 
sacred subject is endowed with an universally human in- 
terest, and stands as a symbol for a period of life we must 
all pass through. Such a picture is immortal, because it 
grasps backwards at the earliest times of humanity, and 
forwards at the latest. On the contrary, if Christ were 
painted suffering the little children to come unto him, 
it would be a picture that expressed nothing — at any 
rate, nothing of importance. 

"For above fifty years," continued Goethe, "I have 
watched German painting — nay, not merely watched it, but 
endeavoured to exert some influence on it, and now I can 
say so much, that as the matter now stands, little is to be 
expected. Some great talent must come, which will at 
once appropriate to itself all that is good in the period, and 
thus surpass every one. The means are at hand, and the 
way is pointed out. We have now the works of Phidias 
before our eyes, whereas in our youth nothing of the sort 
was to be thought of. As I have just said, nothing is 
wanting but a great talent, and this I hope will come ; 
perhaps it is already in its cradle, and you will live to see 
its brilliancy." 

Wed., Dec. 20. — I told Goethe after dinner, that I had 
made a discovery which afforded me much pleasure. I had 
observed in a burning taper that the lower transparent 
part of the flame exhibits a phenomenon analogous to that 
of the blue sky, since in both we see darkness through a 
lighted but dense medium. 

n2 



180 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1826. 



I asked Goethe whether he knew this phenomenon of 
the taper, and had mentioned it in his " Theory of 
Colours." 

" Certainly," said he. He then took down a volume of 
"the Theory of Colours," and read me the paragraphs ia 
which I found described all that I had seen. " I am glad," 
said he, " that you have been struck with this phe- 
nomenon, without learning it from my t Theory,' for you 
have now comprehended it, and may say that you 
possess it. Moreover, you have thus gained a point of 
view from which you can proceed to the other phenomena. 
I will show you a new one now." 

It was about four o'clock : the sky was clouded over, 
and twilight was beginning. Goethe lighted a candle, and 
went with it to a table near the window. He then set it 
on a white sheet of paper, and placed a small stick so that 
the light of the candle threw a shadow from the stick to- 
wards the daylight. " Now," said Goethe, " what do you 
say of this shadow ? " " The shadow is blue," replied I. 
" There you get your blue again," said Groethe. " But what 
do you see on the other side of the stick towards the taper ? " 
" Another shadow." " But of what colour ? " " The sha- 
dow is a reddish yellow," I replied; "but whence pro- 
ceeds this double phenomenon ? " " There is a point for 
you," said Goethe : " see if you can work it out. A 
solution is to be found, but it is difficult. Do not look at 
my ' Theory of Colours ' until you have given up all hopes 
of finding it out yourself." I made this promise with great 
delight. 

" The phenomenon of the lower part of the taper," said 
Goethe, "where a transparent flame stands before dark- 
ness and produces a blue colour, I will now show you on a 
larger scale." He took a spoon and poured into it some 
spirit, which he set on fire. Thus a transparent flame was 
again produced, through which the darkness appeared blue. 
If I held the burning spirit against the darkness, the blue 
increased in intensity ; but if I held it against the light, 
the blue became fainter or vanished altogether. 

I was delighted with this phenomenon. " Yes," said 
Goethe, "this is the grandeur of nature, that she is so 
simple, and that she always repeats her greatest 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



181 



phenomena on a small scale. The law by which the sky 
is blue may likewise be observed in the lower part of a 
burning taper, in burning spirits, and also in the bright 
smoke which rises from a village with dark mountains in 
the background." 

" But how do the disciples of Newton explain this 
extremely simple phenomenon ? " " That you must not 
know," answered Goethe. " Their explanation is too 
stupid, and a good head-piece is incredibly damaged when 
it meddles with stupidities. Do not trouble yourself about 
the Newtonians, but be satisfied with the pure doctrine, 
and you will find it quite enough for you." 

" An occupation with that which is wrong," said I, "is 
perhaps in this case as unpleasant and as injurious as 
taking up a bad tragedy to illustrate it in all its parts, and 
to expose it in its nudity." 

"The case is precisely the same," said Goethe, "and we 
should not meddle with anything of the sort without actual 
necessity. 1 receive mathematics as the most sublime and 
useful science, so long as they are applied in their proper 
place ; but I cannot commend the misuse of them in mat- 
ters which do not belong to their sphere, and in which, 
noble science as they are, they seem to be mere nonsense. 
As if, forsooth ! things only exist when they can be mathe- 
matically demonstrated. It would be foolish for a man not 
to believe in his mistress's love because she could not prove 
it to him mathematically. She can mathematically prove 
her dowry, but not her love. The mathematicians did not 
find out the metamorphosis of plants. I have achieved this 
discovery without mathematics, and the mathematicians 
were forced to put up with it. To understand the 
phenomena of colour nothing is required but unbiassed 
observation and a sound head, but these are scarcer than 
folks imagine." 

" How do the French and English, of the present day 
stand with respect to the theory of colour ? " asked I. 
"Each of the two nations," replied Goethe, "has its ad- 
vantages and disadvantages. With the English, it is a 
good quality, that they make everything practical, but they 
are pedants. The French have good brains, but with them 
everything must be positive, and if it is not so they make 



182 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l82b. 



it so. However, with respect to the theory of colours, 
they are in a good way, and one of their best men comes 
near the truth. He says that colours are inherent in 
the things ; themselves; for as there is in nature an 
acidulating principle, so also is there a colouring principle. 
This view, I admit, does not explain the phenomena, but 
it places the object within the sphere of nature, and 
frees it from the load of mathematics." 

The Berlin papers were brought in, and Goethe sat 
down to read them. He handed one of them to me, 
and I found in the theatrical intelligence, that at the 
opera house and the theatre royal they gave just as bad 
pieces as they gave here. " How should it be otherwise ? " 
said Goethe. " There is no doubt that with the help of 
good English, French, and Spanish pieces, a repertoire 
^;an be formed sufficiently abundant to furnish a good 
piece every evening. But what need is felt by the 
nation always to see good pieces ? The time in which 
^Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides lived was different. 
Then there was mind enough to desire only what was 
really greatest and best. But in our miserable times, 
where is felt a need for the best ? where are the organs 
to appreciate it ? 

" Aiid then," continued Goethe, " people will have 
something new. In Berlin or Paris, the public is always 
the same. A quantity of new pieces are written and 
brought out in Paris, and you must endure five or six 
thoroughly bad ones before you are compensated by a 
single good one. The only expedient to keep up a Ger- 
man theatre at the present time is that of 'starring' 
(Gastrollen). If I had the direction of a theatre now, 
the whole winter should be provided with excellent ' stars.' 
Thus, not only would all the good pieces be represented 
once more, but the interest of the audience would be led 
more from the pieces to the acting ; a power of comparing 
and judging would be acquired ; the public would gain in 
penetration, and the superior acting of a distinguished star 
would maintain our own actors in a state of excitement 
and emulation. As I said before, keep on with your star- 
ring, and you will be astonished at the benefit that will 
accrue both to the theatre and the public. I foresee a time 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



183 



when a clever man, who understands the matter, will take 
four theatres at once, and provide them with stars by turns. 
And I am sure he will keep his ground better than if he 
only had one." 

Wed., Dec. 27. — I had been sedulously reflecting at home, 
on the phenomenon of the blue and yellow shadows, and 
although this long remained a riddle to me, a light gleamed 
upon me after constant meditation, and I was gradually 
convinced that I understood the phenomenon. 

To-day at dinner, I told Goethe that I had solved the 
riddle. "That is saying a great deal," said Goethe, 
"you shall show me after dinner." "I would rather 
write my solution down," returned I, "for I want the 
right words for a verbal explanation." " You may write 
it down afterwards, but to-day you shall solve the 
problem before my eyes, and demonstrate it with your 
own mouth, that I may see whether you are in the 
right way." 

After dinner, when it was still quite light, Goethe said 
to me, "Can you make the experiment now?" "No," 
said I. "Why not?" asked Groethe. "It is too light," 
I replied. " We must have a little dusk, in order that the 
candle may throw a decided shade, but not so much that 
daylight cannot fall upon this shadow." " Humph ! " said 
Goethe, " that is not wrong." 

The dusk of the evening at last set in, and I told Goethe 
that this was the time. He lighted the wax taper, and 
gave me a sheet of white paper and a stick. " Now, go on 
with your experiment and demonstration," said he. 

I placed the taper on the table near the window, laid the 
sheet of paper near it, and when I placed the stick in 
the middle of the paper, between daylight and candle-light, 
the phenomenon was there in all its beauty. The shadow 
towards the candle was a decided yellow, and the one to- 
wards the window a perfect blue. 

"Now," said Goethe, "how is the blue shadow pro- 
duced?" "Before I explain this," said I, "I will lay 
down the fundamental law, from which I deduce both 
phenomena. Light and darkness are not colours, but they 
are the two extremes between which, and by the modifi- 
cation of which, all colours are produced. Next to the 



184 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1826. 



extremes of light and darkness, arise the two colours 
yellow and blue. The yellow borders on light, inasmuch 
as it is produced by seeing light through a dimmed 
transparency ; the blue borders on darkness, inasmuch as 
it is produced by seeing darkness through an illuminated 
transparency. If we now come to our phenomena," I con- 
tinued, "we see that the stick, through the strength of the 
taper light, casts a decided shadow. This shadow would 
appear as so much black darkness if I closed the shutters 
and shut out the light of day ; but here the daylight enters 
freely by the window, and forms an illuminated medium, 
through which I see the darkness of the shadow ; and thus, 
in conformity with our law, the blue colour is produced." 

Goethe laughed. " Well, that would be the blue, would 
it ? " said he ; " but how do you explain the yellow 
shadow?" "From the law of the dimmed light," I re- 
plied. "The burning taper throws upon the white paper a 
light which has already a "slightly yellowish tinge. The 
daylight, however, is strong enough to throw a weak 
shadow, which, as far as it extends, dims the light ; and 
thus, in conformity with our law, the yellow colour is 
produced. If I lessen the dimness by bringing the shadow 
as nearly as possible to the candle, a pure clear yellow is 
produced ; but if I increase the dimness by removing the 
shadow as far as possible from the candle, the yellow is 
* heightened to a reddish yellow, or even to a red." 

Goethe again laughed, and looked very mysterious. 
" Now," said he, "am I right ? You have observed your 
phenomenon well, and have described it very prettily," 
replied Goethe, "but you have not explained it. Tour 
explanation is ingenious, but it is not the right one." 

"Help me, then," said I, "and solve the riddle, for I 
am extremely impatient." " You shall learn the solution," 
replied Goethe, " but not to-day and not in this manner. 
I will next show you another phenomenon, which will 
bring the law plainly before your eyes. You are near 
the mark, and cannot proceed further in this direction. 
When you have once comprehended the new law, you 
will be transplanted into quite another region. Come some 
day and dine with me an hour earlier, when the sky 
is clear, and I will show you a plainer phenomenon, by 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



185 



which you will at once comprehend the law which lies at 
the foundation of this one. I am very glad," he continued, 
" that you take this interest in colours ; it will prove a 
source of infinite delight." 

When I left Goethe in the evening, I could not get the 
thought of the phenomenon out of my head, and it oc- 
cupied my very dreams ; hut even thus I did not gain a 
clearer view, and did not advance one step nearer towards 
the solution of the enigma. 



" I am going on, though slowly, with my papers on 
Natural Science," said Goethe to me lately ; " not because I 
think that I can materially advance science, but on account 
of the many pleasant associations I maintain by it. Of all 
occupations, that with nature is the most innocent. As for 
any connection or correspondence in aesthetical matters, 
that is not to be thought of. They now want to know 
what town on the Rhine is meant in my ' Hermann and 
Dorothea,' as if it were not better to choose according to 
one's fancy. They want truth — they want actuality ; and 
thus poetry is destroyed." 



1827. 

Wed., Jan. 3. — At dinner, we talked over Canning's ex- 
cellent speech for Portugal. " Some people," said Goethe, 
" call this speech coarse ; but these people know not what 
they want — they have a morbid desire to be frondeurs against 
all greatness. It is no opposition, it is mere 'frondation ' ; 
they must have something great, that they may hate it. 
When Napoleon was alive they hated him, and he served as 
a good conduit-pipe. When it was all over with him, they 
grumbled (frondirten) at the Holy Alliance, and yet nothing- 
greater or more beneficial for mankind was ever devised. 
Now it is Canning's turn. His speech for Portugal is the 
result of a grand consciousness. He feels very well the 
extent of his power and the dignity of his position ; and he 
is right to speak as he feels. This the Sans-culottes can- 
not understand; and what to us seems sublime, seems to 



186 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827* 



them coarse. The grand disturbs them; they are not so 
constituted as to respect it, and cannot endure it." 

Thurs. evening, Jan. 4. — Goethe praised highly the poems 
of Victor Hugo. 

"He is," said he, "a man of decided talent, on whom 
German literature has had an influence. His poetic youth 
has, unfortunately, been disturbed by the pedantry of the 
classic school ; but now he has the 1 Globe ' on his side, and 
is thus sure of his game. I am inclined to compare him 
with Manzoni. He has much objectivity, and seems to me 
quite as important as MM. De Lamartine and De la Vigne. 
On closely observing him, I see the source of this and other 
fresh talent of the same sort. They all come from Chateau- 
briand, who has really a distinguished rhetorico-poetical 
talent. That you may see how Victor Hugo writes, only 
read this poem upon Napoleon — Les Deux Isles." 

Goethe gave me the book, and went to the stove. I read 
the poem. " Has he not excellent images," said Goethe, 
" and has not he managed his subject with great freedom ? " 
He came back to me. " Only look at this passage — how 
fine it is ! " He read the passage about the storm-cloud, 
from which the lightning darts upward and strikes the 
hero. " That is fine ; for the image is correct : as you will 
find in the mountains, where we often have the storm 
beneath us, and where the lightning darts upwards." 

"I praise this in the French," said I, "that their poetry 
never deserts the firm ground of reality. We can translate 
their poems into prose, without losing anything essential." 

"That," said Goethe, "is because the French poets have 
knowledge, while our German simpletons think they would 
lose their talent, if they laboured for knowledge ; although, 
in fact, all talent must derive its nutriment from knowledge, 
and thus only is enabled to use its strength. But let them 
pass ; we cannot help them, and real talent soon finds its 
way. The many young poets who are now carrying on 
their trade have no real talent ; they only show an impotence 
which has been excited into productiveness by the high 
state of German literature. 

" That the French," continued Goethe, "have passed from 
their pedantry into a freer manner is not surprising. Even 
before the revolution, Diderot, and minds like his, sought 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



187 



to break open this path. The revolution itself, and the 
reign of Napoleon, have been favourable to the cause ; for 
if the years of war allowed no real poetical interest to 
spring up, and were consequently for the moment un- 
favourable to the Muses, yet a multitude of free intellects 
were formed in this period, who now, in times of peace, 
attain reflection, and come forward as talents of importance." 

I asked Goethe whether the classical party had been op- 
posed to the excellent Beranger. " The genre of Beranger's 
poetry," said Goethe, "is old and traditional, and people 
were accustomed to it. However, he has been in many 
respects more free than his predecessors, and has therefore 
been attacked by the pedantic party." 

The conversation turned upon painting, and on the mis- 
chief of the antiquity- worshipping school. "You do not 
pretend to be a connoisseur," said Goethe ; "but I will show 
jou a picture, in which, though it has been painted by one 
of the best living German artists, you will at the first 
glance be struck by the most glaring offences against the 
primary laws of art. You will see that details are nicely 
done, but you will be dissatisfied with the whole, and will 
not know what to make of it; and this not because the 
painter has not sufficient talent, but because his mind, which 
should have directed his talent, is darkened, like that of all 
the other bigots to antiquity ; so that he ignores the perfect 
masters, and, going back to their imperfect predecessors, 
takes them for his patterns. 

" Raphael and his contemporaries broke through a limited 
mannerism, to nature and freedom. And now our artists, 
instead of being thankful, using these advantages, and pro- 
ceeding on the good way, return to the state of limitation. 

" This is too bad, and it is hard to understand such 
darkening of the intellect. And since in this course they 
find no support in art itself, they seek one from religion, 
and faction — without these two they could not sustain 
themselves in their weakness. 

" There is," continued Goethe, " through all art a filiation. 
If you see a great master, you will always find that he used 
what was good in his predecessors, and that it was this 
which made him great. Men like Raphael do not spring 
out of the ground. They took root in the antique, and 



188 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



the best wliicli had been done before them. Had they not 
used the advantages of their time, there would be little to 
say about them." 

The conversation now turned upon old German poetry. 
I mentioned Memming. " Flemming," said Goethe, "is a 
very fair talent, a little prosaic and citizen-like, and of no 
practical use nowadays. It is strange," he continued, 
" that with all I have done, there is not one of my poems 
that would suit the Lutheran hymn-book." I laughed and 
assented, while I said to myself that in this odd expression 
there was more than could be seen at the first glance. 

Sun. evening, Jan. 12. — I found a musical party at Goethe's. 
The performers were the Eberwein family, and some mem- 
bers of the orchestra. Among the few hearers were General 
Superintendent Rohr, Hofrath Vogel, and some ladies. 
Goethe had wished to hear a quartet by a celebrated young 
composer, and this was played first. Karl Eberwein, a boy 
twelve years old, played the piano entirely to Goethe's great 
satisfaction, and indeed admirably, so that the quartet was 
in every respect well performed. 

" It is a strange state," said Goethe, " to which the great 
improvements in the technical and mechanical part of the 
art have brought our newest composers. Their productions 
are no longer music ; they go beyond the level of human 
feelings, and one can give them no response from the mind 
and heart. How do you feel ? I hear with my ears only." 

I replied that I fared no better. 

" Yet the Allegro," said he, " had character; that ceaseless 
whirling and twirling brought before my mind the witches' 
dance on the Blocksberg, and thus I had a picture to illus- 
trate this odd music." 

After a pause, during which the party discoursed and 
took refreshments, Goethe asked Madame Eberwein to 
sing some songs. She sang the beautiful song, " Urn 
Mitternacht," with Zelter's music, which made the deepest 
impression. 

"That song," said Goethe, "remains beautiful, however 
often it is heard ! There is something eternal, indestruc- 
tible, in the melody ! " 

The "Erlkonig" obtained great applause; and the aria, 
*'Ich hab's gesagt der guten Mutter," made every one re- 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



189 



mark that the music so happily fitted the words, that no 
one could even conceive it otherwise. Goethe himself was 
in the highest degree pleased. 

By way of conclusion to this pleasant evening, Madame 
Eberwein, at Goethe's request, sang some songs from his 
" Divan," with her husband's music. The passage, " Jussuf 's 
Reize mocht' ich borgen," pleased Goethe especially. 
"Eberwein," he said, "sometimes surpasses himself." He 
then asked for the song, "Ach um deine feuchten 
Schwingen," which was also of a kind to excite the deepest 
emotions. 

After the party had left, I remained some moments alone 
with Goethe. "I have," said he, "this evening made the 
remark that these songs in the 1 Divan ' have no further 
connection with me. Both the oriental and impassioned 
elements have ceased to live in me. I have left them be- 
hind, like a cast-off snake-skin on my path. The song, 
' Um Mitternacht,' on the contrary, has not lost its connec- 
tion with me ; it is a living part of me, and goes on living 
with me still. 

" Oftentimes, my own productions seem wholly strange 
to me. To-day, I read a passage in French, and thought 
as I read — ' This man speaks cleverly enough — you would 
not have said it otherwise : ' when I look at it closely, I find 
it is a passage translated from my own writings ! " 

Mon. evening, Jan. 15. — After the completion of the 
" Helena," Goethe had employed himself last summer with 
the continuation of the " Wander jahre." He often talked 
to me about the progress of this work. 

"In order the better to use the materials I possess," said 
he to me one day, " I have taken the first part entirely to 
pieces, and intend, by mingling the old with the new, to 
make two parts. I have ordered everything that is printed 
to be copied entire. The places where I have new matter 
to introduce are marked, and when my secretary comes to 
such a mark, I dictate what is wanting, and thus compel 
myself never to let my work stop." 

Another day he said to me, " All the printed part of the 
1 Wander jahre ' is now completely copied. The places where 
I am to introduce new matter are filled with blue paper, so 
that I have always before my eyes what is yet to be done. 



190 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



As I go on at present, the bine spots gradually vanish, to 
my great delight." 

Some weeks ago, I had heard from his secretary that he 
was at work on a new novel. I therefore abstained from 
evening visits, and satisfied myself with seeing him once a 
week at dinner. The novel had now been finished for some 
time, and this evening he showed me the first sheets. I 
was delighted, and read as far as the important passage 
where all stand round the dead tiger, and the messenger 
brings the intelligence that the lion has laid himself in the 
sun by the ruins. 

While reading, I could not but admire the extraordinary 
clearness with which all objects, down to the very smallest 
locality, were brought before the eyes. The going out to 
hunt, the old ruins of the castle, the fair, the way through 
the fields to the ruins, were all so distinctly painted, that 
one could not conceive them otherwise than as the poet 
intended. At the same time, all was written with such 
circumspection and mastery of subject, that one could 
never anticipate what was coming, or see a line further 
than one read. 

"Your excellency," said I, "must have worked after a 
very defined plan." 

" Yes, indeed," replied Groethe ; " I was going to treat the 
subject thirty years ago, and have carried it in my head 
ever since. The work went on oddly enough. At that 
time, immediately after ' Hermann and Dorothea,' I meant 
to treat it in an epic form and in hexameters, and had 
drawn up a complete outline with this view. But when I 
now took up the subject again, not being able to find my 
old outline, I was obliged to make a new one, and that 
suitable to the altered form I intended to give the subject. 
ISTow my work is ended, the old outline is again found, and 
I am glad I did not have it earlier ; for it would only have 
confused me. The action and the progress of development 
were, indeed, unaltered, but the details were entirely 
different; it had been conceived with a view to an epic 
treatment in hexameters, and would not therefore have been 
applicable to this prose form." 

The conversation then turned upon the contents. 

"That is a beautiful situation," said I, "where Honorio, 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



191 



opposite to the princess, stands over the dead tiger, when 
the lamenting woman with her boy comes up, and the 
prince, too, with his retinue of huntsmen, hastens to join 
this singular group; it would make an excellent picture, 
and I should like to see it painted." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " that would be a fine picture. 
Yet, perhaps," continued he, after some reflection, "the 
subject is almost too rich, and the figures are too many, so 
that it would be very difficult for the artist to group them, 
and distribute the light and shade. That earlier moment, 
where Honorio kneels on the tiger, and the princess is 
opposite to him on horseback, I have imagined as a picture, 
and that might be done." 

I felt that Goethe was right, and added that this 
moment contained in fact the gist of the whole situation. 

I also remarked that this novel had a character quite dis- 
tinct from those of the " Wander jahre," inasmuch as every- 
thing represented the external world — everything was real. 

"True," said Goethe, "you will find in it scarcely any- 
thing of the inward world, and in my other things there is 
almost too much." 

" I am now curious to learn," said I, " how the lion will 
be conquered ; I almost guess that this will take place in 
quite a different manner, but liow I cannot conceive." " It 
would not be right for you to guess it," said Goethe, "and 
I will not reveal the secret to-day. On Thursday evening 
I will give you the conclusion. Till then, the Hon shall lie 
in the sun." 

I turned the conversation to the second part of " Faust," 
especially the classical Walpurgis night, which existed as 
yet only as a sketch, and which Goethe had told me he 
meant to print in that form. I had ventured to advise him 
not to do so ; for I found that if it were once printed, it would 
be always left in this unfinished state. Goethe must have 
thought that over in the mean time, for he now told me that 
he had resolved not to print the sketch. 

" I am very glad of it," said I ; " for now I shall hope to 
see you complete it." 

"It might be done in three months," said he ; "but when 
am I to get time for it ? The day has too many claims on 
me ; it is difficult to isolate myself sufficiently. This 



192 



CONVERSATOXS OF GOETHE. 



[1S27. 



morning, the hereditary Grand Duke was with me ; to- 
morrow at noon, the Grand Duchess proposes visiting" 
me. I must prize such visits as a high favour: they 
embellish my life, but they occupy my mind. I am 
obliged to think what I have new to offer to such 
dignified personages, and how I can worthily entertain 
them." 

" And yet," said I, "you finished £ Helena ' last winter, 
when you were no less disturbed than now." 

"Why," he replied, " one goes on, and must go on ; but 
it is difficult." 

'"Tis well," said I, "that your outline is so completely 
made out." 

" The outline is indeed complete," said Goethe, "but the 
most difficult part is yet to be done ; and in the execution 
of parts, everything depends too much on luck. The 
classic Walpurgis night must be written in rhyme, and yet 
the whole must have an antique character. It is not easy 
to find a suitable sort of verse ; — and then the dialogue ! " 

" Is not that also in the plan ? " said I. 

" The vjhat is there," replied Goethe, " but not the lion: 
Then only think what is to be said on that mad night ! 
Faust's speech to Proserpine, when he would move her to 
give him Helena — what a speech should that be, when 
Proserpine herself is moved to tears ! All this is not easy 
to do, and depends much on good luck, nay, almost entirely 
on the mood and strength at the moment." 

Wed., Jan. 17. — Lately, during Goethe's occasional in- 
disposition, we had dined in his work-room, which looks 
out on the garden. To-day, the cloth was again laid 
in what is called the Urbino- chamber, which I looked 
upon as a good omen. When I entered, I found Goethe 
and his son : both welcomed me in their naive, affectionate 
manner; Goethe himself was in his happiest mood, as I 
could perceive by the animation of his face. 

Through the open door of the next room, I saw 
Chancellor von Miiller stooping over a large engraving ; he 
soon came in to us, and I was glad to greet him as a 
pleasant companion at table. Frau von Goethe was still 
absent, but we sat down to table without her. The engrav- 
ing was talked about with admiration, and Goethe said 



I82 7 .j 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



193 



that it was a work of the celebrated Parisian Gerard, who 
had lately sent it to him as a present. " Go you at once," 
added he, " and take a peep before the soup conies in." 

I followed his wish and my own inclination, and was 
delighted both with the sight of the admirable work and 
with the inscription of the artist, by which he dedicates it 
to Goethe as a proof of his esteem. I could not look long ; 
Frau von Goethe came in, and I hastened back to my 
place. 

" Is not that something great ? " said Goethe. " You 
may study it days and weeks before you can find out all its 
rich thoughts and perfections." 

We were very lively at table. The Chancellor produced 
a letter by an important man at Paris, who had held a 
difficult post as ambassador here in the time of the French 
occupation, and had from that period kept up a friendly 
communication with Weimar. He mentioned the Grand 
Duke and Goethe, and congratulated Weimar for being 
able to maintain so intimate an alliance between genius and 
the highest power. 

Frau von Goethe gave a highly graceful tone to the 
conversation. The discourse was upon certain pur- 
chases; and she teazed young Goethe, who would not 
give in. 

" We must not spoil fair ladies too much," said Goethe ; 
"they are so ready to break all bounds. Even at Elba, 
Napoleon received milliners' bills, which he had to pay ; 
yet, in such matters, he would as easily do too little as too 
much. One day, at the Tuileries, a marchand de modes 
offered, in his presence, some valuable goods to his consort. 
As Napoleon showed no disposition to buy anything, the 
man gave him to understand that he was doing but little in 
this way for his wife. Napoleon did not answer a word, 
but looked upon the man with such a look, that he 
packed up his things at once, and never showed his face 
again.'* 

" Did he do this when consul ? " asked Frau von Goethe. 

" Probably when emperor," replied Goethe, " for other- 
wise his look would not have been so formidable. I 
cannot but laugh at the man, who was pierced through by 
the glance, and who saw himself already beheaded or shot." 





194 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



C'8*7- 



We were in the liveliest mood, and continued to talk of 
Napoleon. 

" I wish," said young Goethe, " that I had good pictures 
or engravings of all Napoleon's deeds, to decorate a large 
room." 

"The room must be very large," said Goethe, "and 
even then it would not hold the pictures, so great are the 
deeds." 

The Chancellor turned the conversation on Luden's 
"History of the Germans ; " and I had reason to admire 
the dexterity and penetration which young Goethe dis- 
played in deducing all which the reviewers had found to 
blame in the book from the time in which it was written, 
and the national views and feelings which had animated 
the author. We arrived at the result that the wars of 
Napoleon first explained to us those of Caesar. " Pre- 
viously," said Goethe, " Caesar's book was really not much 
more' than an exercise for classical schools." 

From the old German time, the conversation turned upon 
the Gothic. We spoke of a bookcase which had a Gothic 
character, and from this were led to discuss the late 
fashion of arranging entire apartments in the old German 
and Gothic style, and thus living under the influences of a 
bygone time. 

" In a house," said Goethe, " where there are so many 
rooms that some are entered only three or four times a year, 
such a fancy may pass ; and I think it a pretty notion of 
Madame Pankoucke at Paris that she has a Chinese apart- 
ment. But I cannot praise the man who fits out the rooms 
in which he lives with these strange, old-fashioned objects. 
It is a sort of masquerade, which can, in the long run, do 
no good in any respect, but must, on the contrary, have an 
unfavourable influence on the man who adopts it. Such a 
fashion is in contradiction to the age in which we live, and 
will only confirm the empty and hollow way of thinking 
and feeling in which it originates. It is well enough, on a 
merry winter's evening, to go to a masquerade as a Turk ; 
but what should we think of a man who wore such a mask 
all the year round ? We should think either that he was 
crazy, or in a fair way to become so before long." 

We found Goethe's remarks on this highly practical 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 195 

subject very convincing, and as the reproof did not even 
lightly touch any of us, we received the truth with the 
pleasantest feelings. 

The conversation now turned upon the theatre, and Goethe 
rallied me for having, last Monday evening, sacrificed 
it to him. " He has now been here three years," said he, 
turning to the others, " and this is the first evening that he 
has given up the theatre for my sake. I ought to think a 
great deal of it. I had invited him, and he had promised 
to come, but yet I doubted whether he would keep his 
word, especially as it struck half -past six and he was not 
here. Indeed, I should have rejoiced if he had not come ; 
for then I could have said : this is a crazy fellow, who loves 
the theatre better than his dearest friends, and whom 
nothing can turn aside from his obstinate partiality. But 
did I not make it up to you ? have I not shown you fine 
things ? " By these words Goethe alluded to the new 
novel. 

We talked of Schiller's " Fiesco," which was acted last 
Saturday. " I saw it for the first time," said I, " and have 
been much occupied with thinking whether those extremely 
rough scenes could not be softened ; but I find very little 
could be done to them without spoiling the character of the 
whole." 

"You are right — it cannot be done," replied Goethe. 
" Schiller often talked with me on the matter ; for he him- 
self could not endure his first plays, and would never allow 
them to be acted while he had the direction of the theatre. 
At last we were in want of pieces, and would willingly have 
gained those three powerful firstlings for our repertoire. 
But we found it impossible ; all the parts were too closely 
interwoven one with another ; so that Schiller himself 
despaired of accomplishing the plan, and found himself con- 
strained to give it up, and leave the pieces just as they 
were." 

" 'Tis a pity," said I; "for, notwithstanding all their 
roughness, I love them a thousand times better than the 
weak, forced, and unnatural pieces of some of the best of 
our later tragic poets. A grand intellect and character is 
felt in everything of Schiller's." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "Schiller might do what he would, 

2 



196 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[182-. 



he conld not make anything which would not come ont far 
greater than the best things of these later people. Even 
when he cut his nails, he showed he was greater than these 
gentlemen." "We laughed at this striking metaphor. 

" But I have known persons," continued he, " who could 
never be content with those first dramas of Schiller. One 
summer, at a bathing place, I was walking through a very 
secluded, narrow path, which led to a mill. There Prince 

met me, and as at the same moment some mules 

laden with meal-sacks came up to us, we were obliged to 
get out of the way and enter a small house. Here, in a 
naiTow room, we fell, after the fashion of that prince, into 
deep discussion about things divine and human ; we also 
came to Schiller's 1 Robbers,' when the prince expressed 
himself thus : ' If I had been the Deity on the point of 
creating the world, and had foreseen, at the moment, that 
Schiller's ' Robbers ' would have been written in it, I would 
have left the world uncreated.' " "We could not help 
laughing. " "What do you say to that ? " said Goethe ; 

that is a dislike which goes pretty far, and which one can 
scarcely understand." 

"There is nothing of this dislike," I observed, "in our 
young people, especially our students. The most excellent 
and matured pieces by Schiller and others may be per- 
formed, and we shall see but few young people and students 
in the theatre ; but if Schiller's ' Robbers ' or Schiller's 
'Fiesco' is given, the house is almost filled by students 
alone." 

" So it was," said Goethe, " fifty years ago, and so it will 
probably be fifty years hence. Do not let us imagine that 
the world will so much advance in culture and good taste 
that young people will pass over the ruder epoch. What a 
young man has written is always best enjoyed by young 
people. Even if the world progresses generally, youth will 
always begin at the beginning, and the epochs of the world's 
cultivation will be repeated in the individual. This has 
ceased to irritate me, and a long time ago I made a verse in 
this fashion : 

Still let the bonfire blaze away, 

Let pleasure never know decay ; 

Old brooms to stumps are always worn, 

And youngsters every day are bom. 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. l97 

"I need only look out of the window to see, in the 
brooms that sweep the street, and the children who inn 
about, a visible symbol of the world, that is always wearing 
out and always becoming young again. Children's games 
and the diversions of youth are preserved from century to 
century ; for, absurd as these may appear to a more mature 
age, children are always children, and are at all times 
alike. Hence we ought not to put down the midsummer 
bonfires, or spoil the pleasure which the little dears take in 
them." 

With this and the like cheerful conversation the hours 
at table passed swiftly by. We younger people then 
went into the upper room, while the Chancellor remained 
with Goethe. 

Thurs. evening, Jan. 18. — Goethe had promised me the 
rest of the novel this evening. I went to him at half -past 
six, and found him alone in his comfortable work-room. I 
sat down with him at table, and after we had talked over 
the immediate events of the day, Goethe arose and gave me 
the wished-for last sheets. " There you may read the con- 
clusion," said he. I began, while Goethe walked up and 
down the room, and occasionally stood at the stove. As 
usual, I read softly to myself. 

The sheets of the last evening had ended where the lion 
is lying in the sun outside the wall of the old ruin, at the 
foot of an aged beech, and preparations are made to subdue 
him. The prince is going to send the hunters after him, 
but the stranger begs him to spare his lion, being confident 
that he can bring him back into his cage by milder means. 
This child, said he, will accomplish his work by pleasant 
words and the sweet tones of his flute. The prince con- 
sents, and after he has arranged the necessary measures of 
precaution, rides back into the town with his men. 
Honorio, with a number of hunters, occupies the defile, 
that, in case the lion comes down, he may scare him back by 
kindling a fire. The mother and the child, led by the 
warder of the castle, ascend the ruin, on the other side of 
which the lion is lying by the outer wall. 

The design is to lure the mighty animal into the spacious 
castle-yard. The mother and the warder conceal them- 
selves above in the half -ruined hall, while the child goes 



198 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



alone after the lion through the dark opening in the wall of 
the court-yard. An anxious pause arises. They do not 
know what has become of the child — his flute gives no 
sound. The warder reproaches himself that he did not go 
also, but the mother is calm. 

At last the sounds of the flute are again heard. They 
approach nearer and nearer. The child returns to the 
castle-yard by the opening in the wall, and the lion, now 
docile, follows him with heavy step. They go once round 
the yard. Then the child sits down in a sunny spot, while 
the lion settles himself peacefully beside him, and lays one 
of his heavy paws in his lap. A thorn has entered it ; the 
child draws it out, and, taking his silken kerchief from his 
neck, binds the paw. 

The mother and the warder, who have witnessed the 
whole scene from the hall above, are transported with de- 
light. The lion is tamed and in safety, and, as the child 
alternately with the sounds of his flute sings his charmin^ 
pious songs to soothe the monster, he concludes the whole 
novel by singing the following verses : — 
Holy angels thus take heed 

Of the good and docile child, 
Aiding ev'ry worthy deed, 

Checking ev'ry impulse wild. 
Pious thoughts and melody 

Both together work for good, 
Luring to the infant's knee 
E'en the tyrant of the wood.* 



* Those who know the difficulty of the original will not be too 
severe on the abovettranslation. The words as they stand in Cotta's 
editions of Goethe are as follows : — 

Und so geht mit guten Kindern 

Sel'ger Engel gem zu Eath, 
Boses Willen zu verhindern, 
Zu befordern schone That. 
So beschworen fest zu bannen 
Lieben Sohn ans zarte Knie 
Ihn des Waldes Hochtyrannen 
Frommer Sinn und Melodie. 
Unless the most forced construction be adopted, these lines seem 
to me quite inexplicable. But in the passage as quoted by Ecker. 
mann, " liebem " stands in the place of " lieben," and this reading, 
which I suspect to be the right one, gives a sense to which my ver- 
sion approximates. — Trans. 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



199 



I had not read without emotion the concluding incident. 
Still I did not know what to say. I was astonished but not 
satisfied. It seemed to me that the conclusion was too 
simple,* too ideal, too lyrical ; and that at least some of 
the other figures should have reappeared, and, by winding 
up the whole, have given more breadth to the termination. 
Goethe observed that I had a doubt in my mind, and 
endeavoured to set me right. "If," said he, "I had again 
brought in some of the other figures at the end, the con- 
clusion would have been prosaic. What could they do and 
say, when everything is done already ? The prince and his 
men have ridden into the town, where his assistance is 
needed. Honorio, as soon as he learns that the lion is 
secured, will follow with his hunters, and the man will soon 
come from the town with his iron cage and put the lion into 
it. All these things are foreseen, and therefore should not 
be detailed. If they were, we should become prosaic. 
But an ideal, nay, a lyrical conclusion, was necessary ; for 
after the pathetic speech of the man, which in itself is 
poetical prose, a further elevation is required, and I ^as 
obliged to have recourse to lyrical poetry, nay, even to a 
song. 

" To find a simile to this novel," continued Goethe, 
" imagine a green plant shooting up from its root, thrusting 
forth strong green leaves from the sides of its sturdy stem, 
and at last terminating in a flower. The flower is unex- 
pected and startling, but come it must — nay, the whole 
foliage has existed only for the sake of that flower, and 
would be worthless without it." 

At these words I breathed lightly. The scales seemed 
to fall from my eyes, and a feeling of the excellence 
of this marvellous composition began to stir within me. 

Goethe continued, — " The purpose of this novel was to 
show how the unmanageable and the invincible is often 
better restrained by love and pious feeling than by force. 
And this beautiful aim, which is set forth by the child and 
the lion, charmed me on to the completion of the work. 
This is the ideal — this is the flower. The green foliage of 
the extremely real introductory is only there for the sake of 

* In the sense of a group being simple. The German word is 
" einsam " (solitary). — Trans. 



200 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



this ideal, and only worth anything on account of it. For 
what is the real in itself ? We take delight in it when it 
is represented with truth — nay, it may give us a clearer 
knowledge of certain things, but the proper gain to our 
higher nature lies alone in the ideal, which proceeds from 
the heart of the poet." 

I palpably felt how right Goethe was, for the conclusion 
of his novel still acted upon me, and had produced in me a 
tone of piety such as I had not known for a long time. 
How pure and intense, thought I to myself, must be the 
feelings of the poet, that he can write anything so beautiful 
at his advanced age. I did not refrain from expressing 
myself on this point to Goethe, and from congratulating 
myself that this production, which was unique in itself, 
had now a visible existence. 

"Iam glad," said Goethe, "that you are satisfied with 
it ; and I am also glad on my own account, that I have got 
rid of a subject which I carried about with me for thirty 
years. Schiller and Humboldt, to whom I formerly com- 
municated my plan, dissuaded me from going on with it, 
because they could see nothing in it, and because the poet 
alone knows what charms he is capable of giving to his 
subject. One should therefore never ask anybody if one 
means to write anything. If Schiller had asked me about 
his ' Wallenstein ' before he had written it, I should surely 
have advised him against it ; for I could never have dreamed 
that, from such a subject, so excellent a drama could be 
made. Schiller was opposed to that treatment of my sub- 
ject in hexameters, to which I was inclined immediately 
arter my ' Hermann and Dorothea,' and advised eight-lined 
stanzas. You see, however, that I have succeeded, but with 
prose ; for much depended on an accurate description of 
the locality, and in this I should have been constrained by 
a verse of the sort recommended. Besides, the very real 
character at the beginning, and the very ideal character at 
the conclusion of the novel, tell best in prose ; while the 
little songs have a pretty effect, which could not be pro- 
duced either by hexameters or by Ottava Bima." 

The single tales and novels of the " Wanderjahre " were 
talked of ; and it was observed that each was distinguished 
from the others by peculiar character and tone. "The 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



201 



reason of this," said Goethe, "I will explain. I went to 
work like a painter, who, with certain subjects, shuns cer- 
tain colours, and makes others predominate. Thus, for a 
morning landscape, he puts a great deal of blue on his 
palette, and but little yellow. But if he is to paint an 
evening scene, he takes a great deal of yellow, and almost 
omits the blue. I proceeded in the same way with my 
different literary productions, and this is the cause of their 
varied character." 

I thought within myself that this was a very wise 
maxim, and was pleased that Goethe had uttered it. 

I then, especially with reference to this last novel, 
admired the detail with which the scenery was de- 
scribed. 

" I have," said Goethe, "never observed Nature with a 
view to poetical production ; but, because my early drawing 
of landscapes, and my later studies in natural science, led 
me to a constant, close observation of natural objects, I 
have gradually learned Nature by heart even to the mi- 
nutest details, so that, when I need anything as a poet, it is 
at my command ; and I cannot easily sin against truth. 
Schiller had not this observation of Nature. The localities 
of Switzerland, which he used in 'William Tell,' were all 
related to him by me ; but he had such a wonderful mind, 
that even on hearsay, he could make something that pos- 
sessed reality." 

The conversation now turned wholly on Schiller, and 
Goethe proceeded thus : — 

" Schiller's proper productive talent lay in the ideal ; and 
it may be said he has not his equal in German or any other 
literature. He has almost everything that Lord Byron 
has ; but Lord Byron is his superior in knowledge of 
the world. I wish Schiller had lived to know Lord 
Byron's works, and wonder what he would have said to 
so congenial a mind. Did Byron publish anything during 
Schiller's life ? " 

I could not say with certainty. Goethe took down the 
" Conversations Lexicon," and read the article on Byron, 
making many hasty remarks as he proceeded. It appeared 
that Byron had published nothing before 1807, and that 
therefore Schiller could have seen nothing of his. 



202 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827 



" Through all Schiller's works," continued Goethe, " goes 
the "idea of freedom ; though this idea assumed a new shape 
as Schiller advanced in his culture and became another 
man. In his youth it was physical freedom which occu- 
pied him, and influenced his poems ; in his later life it was 
ideal freedom. 

" Freedom is an odd thing, and every man has enough 
of it, if he can only satisfy himself. What avails a super- 
fluity of freedom which we cannot use ? Look at this 
chamber and the next, in which, through the open door, 
you see my bed. Neither of them is large ; and they are 
rendered still narrower by necessary furniture, books, 
manuscripts, and works of art ; but they are enough for 
me. I have lived in them all the winter, scarcely entering 
my front rooms. What have I done with my spacious 
house, and the liberty of going from one room to 
another, when I have not found it requisite to make use of 
them ? 

" If a man has freedom enough to live healthy, and work 
at his craft, he has enough ; and so much all can easily 
obtain. Then all of us are only free under certain con- 
ditions, which we must fulfil. The citizen is as free as the 
nobleman, when he restrains himself within the limits 
which God appointed by placing him in that rank. The 
nobleman is as free as the prince ; for, if he will but ob- 
serve a few ceremonies at court, he may feel himself his 
equal. Freedom consists not in refusing to recognize any- 
thing above us, but in respecting something which is above 
us ; for, by respecting it, we raise ourselves to it, and by 
our very acknowledgment make manifest that we bear 
within ourselves what is higher, and are worthy to be on a 
level with it. 

" I have, on my journeys, often met merchants from the 
north of Germany, who fancied they were my equals, if 
they rudely seated themselves next me at table. They 
were, by this method, nothing of the kind ; but they would 
have been so, if they had known how to value and treat 
me. 

" That this physical freedom gave Schiller so much 
trouble in his youthful years, was caused partly by the 
nature of his mind, but still more by the restraint which 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



203 



he endured at the military school. In later days, when 
he had enongh physical freedom, he passed over to the 
ideal ; and I would almost say that this idea killed him, 
since it led him to make demands on his physical nature 
which were too much for his strength. 

"The Grand Duke fixed on Schiller, when he was 
established here, an income of one thousand dollars yearly, 
and offered to give him twice as much in case he should 
be hindered by sickness from working. Schiller declined 
this last offer, and never availed himself of it. 'I have 
talent,' said he, 'and must help myself.' But as his family 
enlarged of late years, he was obliged, for a livelihood, to 
write two dramas annually; and to accomplish this, he 
forced himself to write days and weeks when he was not 
well. He would have his talent obey him at any hour. 
He never drank much ; he was very temperate ; but, in 
such hours of bodily weakness, he was obliged to stimulate 
his powers by the use of spirituous liquors. This habit 
impaired his health, and was likewise injurious to his pro- 
ductions. The faults which some wiseacres find in his 
works I deduce from this source. All the passages which 
they say are not what they ought to be, I would call 
pathological passages; for he wrote them on those days 
when he had not strength to find the right and true 
motives. I have every respect for the categorical impera- 
tive. I know how much good may proceed from it ; but 
one must not carry it too far, for then this idea of ideal 
freedom certainly leads to no good." 

Amid these interesting remarks, and similar discourse on 
Lord Byron and the celebrated German authors, of whom 
Schiller had said that he liked Kotzebue best, for he, at 
any rate, produced something, the hours of evening passed 
swiftly along, and Goethe gave me the novel, that I might 
study it quietly at home. 

Sun. evening, Jan. 21. — I went at half -past seven this even- 
ing to Goethe, and stayed with him about an hour. H e 
showed me a volume of new French poems, by Mademoiselle 
Gay, and spoke of them with great praise. 

" The French," said he, " push their way, and it is well 
worth while to k>ok after them. I have lately been striving 
hard to form a notion of the present state of the French litera- 



204 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



ture ; and if I succeed I shall express my opinion of it. It is 
very interesting to observe that those elements are now, for 
the first time, at work with them which we went through 
long ago. 

"A mediocre talent is, indeed, always biassed by its 
age, and must be fed by the elements of the age. With 
the French it is the same as with us, do^n to the most 
modern pietism, only that with them this appears more 
galant and spirituel" 

" What says your excellency to Beranger, and the author 
of ' Clara Gazul ? ' " 

" Those I except," said Goethe ; " they are great geniuses, 
who have a foundation in themselves, and keep free from 
the mode of thinking which belongs to their time." 

"I am glad to hear you say this," said I, "for I have 
had a similar feeling about them both." 

The conversation turned from French to German litera- 
ture. " I will show you something," said Goethe, "that 
will be interesting to you. Give me one of those two 
volumes which lie before you. Solger is known to 

yon." 

" Certainly," said I ; " I am very fond of him, I have 
his translation of Sophocles, and both this and the preface 
gave me long since a high opinion of him." 

"You know he has been dead several years," said Goethe ; 
" and now a collection of the writings and letters he left is 
published. He is not so happy in his philosophical in- 
quiries, which he has given us in the form of the Platonic 
dialogues ; but his letters are excellent. In one of them, 
he writes to Tieck upon the Walilverwandtscliaften (elective 
affinities), and I wish to read it to you ; for it would not 
be easy to say anything better about that novel." 

Goethe read me these excellent remarks, and we talked 
them over point by point, admiring the dignified character 
of the views, and the logical sequence of the reasoning. 
Although Solger admitted that the facts of the "Wahrver- 
wandtschaf ten " had their germ in the nature of all the 
characters, he nevertheless blamed that of Edward. 

" I do not quarrel with him," said Goethe, "because he 
cannot endure Edward. I myself cannot endure him, but 
was obliged to make him such a man in order to bring out 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 205 

my fact. He is, besides, very true to nature ; for you find 
many people in the higher ranks, with whom, quite like 
him, obstinacy takes the place of character. 

" High above all, Solger placed the Architect ; because, 
while all the other persons cf the novel show themselves 
loving and weak, he alone remains strong and free ; and 
the beauty of his nature consists not so much in this, 
that he does not fall into the errors of the other characters 
— but in this, that the poet has made him so noble that 
he could not fall into them." 

We were pleased with this remark. 

" That is really very fine," said Goethe. 

" I have," said I, "felt the importance and amiability of 
the Architect's character ; but I never remarked that he 
was so very excellent, just because by his very nature he 
could not fall into those bewilderments of love." 

"jNo wonder," said Goethe, "for I myself never thought 
of it when I was creating him ; yet Solger is right — this 
certainly is his character. 

" These remarks," continued he, " were written as early 
as the year 1809. I should then have been much cheered 
to have heard so kind a word about the ' Wahlverwandt- 
schaften,' for at that time, and afterwards, not many pleasant 
remarks were vouchsafed me about that novel. 

" I see from these letters that Solger was much attached 
to me : in one of them, he complains that I have returned 
no answer about the ' Sophocles ' which he sent me. Good 
Heavens ! how am I placed. It is not to be wondered at. 
I have known great lords, to whom • many presents were 
sent. These had certain formulas and phrases with which 
they answered everything ; and thus they wrote letters to 
hundreds, all alike, and all mere phrases. This I never 
could do. If I could not say to each man something dis- 
tinct and appropriate to the occasion, I preferred not 
writing to him at all. I esteemed superficial phrases un- 
worthy, and thus I have failed to answer many an excellent 
man to whom I would willingly have written. You see 
yourself how it is with me, and what messages and de- 
spatches daily flow in upon me from every quarter, and you 
must confess that more than one man's life would be 
required to answer all these, in ever so careless a way. But 



206 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



I am sorry about Solger ; he was an admirable being, and 
deserved, better than many, a friendly answer." 

I turned the conversation to the novel, which I had now 
frequently read and studied at home. " All the first part," 
said I, " is only an introduction, but nothing is set forth 
beyond what is necessary ; and this necessary preliminary 
is executed with such grace, that we cannot fancy it is 
only for the sake of something else, but would give it a 
value of its own." 

" I am glad that you feel this," said Goethe, "but I 
must do something yet. According to the laws of a good 
introduction, the proprietors of the animals must make 
their appearance in it. When the princess and the uncle 
ride by the booth, the people must come out and entreat 
the princess to honour it with a visit." " Assuredly you 
are right," said I ; " for, since all the rest is indicated in 
the introduction, these people must be so likewise ; and it 
is perfectly natural that, with their devotion to their 
treasury, they would not let the princess pass unassailed." 

"You see," said Goethe, "that in a work of this kind, 
even when it is finished as a whole, there is still something 
to be done with the details." 

Goethe then told me of a foreigner who had lately 
visited him, and had talked of translating several of his 
works. 

" He is a good man," said Goethe, " but, as to his 
literature, he shows himself a mere dilettante ; for he 
does not yet know German at all, and is already talking of 
the translations he will make, and of the portraits which 
he will prefix to them. 

" That is the very nature of the dilettanti, that they 
have no idea of the difficulties which lie in a subject, and 
always wish to undertake something for which they have 
no capacity." 

Thurs. evening, Jan. 29. — At seven o'clock I went with the 
manuscript of the novel and a copy of Beranger to Goethe. 
I found M. Soret in conversation with him upon modern 
French literature. I listened with interest, and it was 
observed that the modern writers had learned a great deal 
from De Lille, as far as good versification was concerned. 
Since M. Soret, as a born Genevese, did not speak German 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



207 



fluently, while Goethe talks French tolerably well, the 
conversation was carried on in that language,, and only 
became German when I put in a word. I took my 
" Beranger " out of my pocket, and gave it to Goethe, 
who wished to read his admirable songs again. M. Soret 
thought the portrait prefixed to the poems was not a good 
likeness. Goethe was much pleased to have this beautiful 
copy in his hands. 

" These songs," said he, " may be looked upon as perfect, 
and as the best things in their kind, especially when you 
observe the burden, without which they would be almost 
too earnest, too pointed, and too epigrammatic for songs. 
Beranger reminds me ever of Horace and Hafiz, who stood 
in the same way above their times, satirically and play- 
fully setting forth the corruption of manners. Beranger 
has the same relation to his contemporaries ; but as he 
belongs to the lower class, the licentious and vulgar are 
not very hateful to him, and he treats them with a sort of 
partiality." 

Many similar remarks were made upon Beranger, and 
other modern French writers, till M. Soret went to court, 
and I remained alone with Goethe. 

A sealed packet lay upon the table. Goethe laid his 
hand upon it. " This," said he, "is ' Helena,' which is 
going to Cotta to be printed." 

I felt, at these words, more than I could say ; I felt the 
importance of the moment. For, as it is with a newly 
built vessel which first goes to sea, and with respect to 
which we know not what destinies it must encounter, 
so is it likewise with the intellectual creation of a 
great master which first goes forth into the world to 
exercise its influence through many ages, and to produce 
and undergo manifold destinies. 

' ' I have, ' ' said G oethe, "till now, been always finding little 
things to add or to touch up ; but I must finish now, and 
I am glad that it is going to the post, and that I shall be 
at liberty to turn to some other object. Let it meet its proper 
destiny. My comfort is, that the general culture of Ger- 
many stands at an incredibly high point ; so that I need 
not fear that such a production will long remain misunder- 
stood and without effect." 



208 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



" There is a whole antiquity in it," said I. 

" Yes," said Goethe, " the philologists will find work." 

" I have no fear," said I, " about the antique part ; 
for there we have the most minute detail, the most thorough 
development of individuals, and each personage says just 
what he should. But the modern romantic part is very 
difficult, for half the history of the world lies behind it ; 
the material is so rich that it can only be lightly indicated, 
and heavy demands are made upon the reader." 

"Yet," said Goethe, "it all appeals to the senses, and 
on the stage would satisfy the eye : more I did not intend. 
Let the crowd of spectators take pleasure in the spectacle ; 
the higher import will not escape the initiated, as has 
been the case with the ' Magic Flute,' and other things 
beside." 

" It will produce a most unusual effect on the stage," 
said I, " that a piece should begin as a tragedy and end 
as an opera. But something is required to present the 
grandeur of these persons, and to express the sublime 
language and verse." 

" The first part," said Goethe, " requires the first tragic 
artists, and the operatic part must be sustained by the 
first vocalists, male and female. That of Helena ought to 
be played, not by one, but by two great female artists ; for 
we seldom find that a fine vocalist has sufficient talent as a 
tragic actress." 

" The whole," said I, " will furnish an occasion for great 
splendour of scenery and costume, and I cannot deny that 
I look forward with pleasure to its representation on the 
stage. If we could only get a good composer." 

" It should be one," said Goethe, " who, like Meyerbeer, 
has lived long in Italy, so that he combines his German 
nature with the Italian style and manner. However, that 
will be found somehow or other ; I only rejoice that I am 
rid of it. Of the notion that the chorus does not descend 
into the lower world, but rather disperses itself among the 
elements on the cheerful surface of the earth, I am not a 
little proud." 

" It is a new sort of immortality," said I. 

"Now," continued Goethe, "how do you go on with 
the novel ? " 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS CE GOETHE. 



209 



" I have brought it with me," said I. " After reading 
it again, I find that your Excellency must not make the 
intended alteration. It produces a good effect that the 
people first appear by the slain tiger as completely new 
beings, with their outlandish costume and manners, and 
announce themselves as the owners of the beasts. If you 
made them first appear in the introduction, this effect 
would be completely weakened, if not destroyed." 

" You are right," said Goethe ; "I must leave it as it is ; 
unquestionably you are right. It must have been my 
design, when first I planned the tale, not to bring the 
people in sooner, otherwise I should not have left them 
out. The intended alteration was a requisition on the 
part of the understanding, which would certainly have 
led me into a fault. This is a remarkable case in aesthetics, 
that a rule must be departed from if faults are to be 
avoided." 

We talked over the title which should be given to the 
novel. Many were proposed ; some suited the beginning, 
others the end, but none seemed exactly suitable to the 
whole. 

"I'll tell you what," said Goethe, "we will call it ' The 
Novel (Die JSTovelle) ; ' for what is a novel but a peculiar 
and as yet unheard-of event ? This is the proper meaning 
of this name ; and much which in Germany passes as a 
novel is no novel at all, but a mere narrative, or whatever 
else you like to call it. In that original sense of an un- 
heard-of event, even the ' Wahlverwandtschaf ten ' may be 
called a 'novel.' " 

" If we consider rightly," said I, " a poem has always 
originated without a title, and is that which it is without 
a title ; so that we may imagine the title is not really 
essential to the matter." 

"It is not," said Goethe; "the ancient poems had no 
titles ; but this is a custom of the moderns, from whom 
also the poems of the ancients obtained titles at a later 
period. However, this custom is the result of a necessity 
to name things, and distinguish them from each other, 
when a literature becomes extensive." 

"Here," said Goethe, "you have something new; — 
read it." 

p 



210 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



C'8*7- 



With these words, he handed over to me a translation by 
Herr Gerhard of a Servian poem. I read it with great 
pleasure, for the poem was very beautiful, and the trans- 
lation so simple and clear that one was never disturbed in 
the contemplation of the object. It was entitled "the 
Prison- Key." I say nothing of the course of the action, 
except that the conclusion seemed to me abrupt, and rather 
unsatisfactory. 

" That," said Goethe, " is the beauty of it ; for it thus 
leaves a sting in the heart, and the imagination of the 
reader is excited to devise every possible case which can 
follow. The conclusion leaves untold the material for a 
whole tragedy, but of a kind that has often been done 
already. On the contrary, that which is set forth in the 
poem is really new and beautiful, and the poet acted very 
wisely in delineating this alone, and leaving the rest to the 
reader. I would willingly insert the poem in ' Kunst und 
Alterthum,' but it is too long ; on the other hand, I have 
asked Herr Gerhard to give me these three in rhyme, which 
I shall print in the next number. What do you say to 
this ? Only listen." 

Goethe read first the song of the old man who loves a 
young maiden, then the women's drinking song, and finally 
that animated one beginning "Dance for us, Theodore." 
He read them admirably, each in a different tone and 
manner, so that it would not be easy to hear anything more 
perfect. 

We praised Herr Gerhard for having, in each instance, 
chosen the most appropriate versification and burden, and 
for having executed all in such an easy and perfect 
manner, that we could not easily conceive anything better 
done. " There you see," said Goethe, " what technical 
practice does for such a talent as Gerhard's ; and it is 
fortunate for him that he has no actual literary profession, 
but one that daily takes him into practical life. He has, 
moreover, travelled much in England and other countries ; 
and thus, with his sense for the actual, he has many ad- 
vantages over our learned young poets. 

"If he confines himself to making good translations, he 
is not likely to produce anything bad ; but original inven- 
tions demand a great deal, and are difficult matters." 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



211 



Some reflections were here made upon the productions 
of our newest young poets, and it was remarked that 
scarce one of them had come out with good prose. " That 
is very easily explained," said Goethe ; "to write prose, 
one must have something to say ; but he who has nothing 
to say can still make verses and rhymes, where one word 
suggests the other, and at last something comes out, which 
in fact is nothing, but looks as if it were something." 

Wed., Jan. 31. — Dined with Goethe. "Within the last 
few days, since I saw you," said he, " I have read many 
and various things ; especially a Chinese novel, which 
occupies me still, and seems to me very remarkable." 

" Chinese novel ! " said I ; " that must look strange 
enough." 

" Not so much as you might think," said Goethe ; " the 
Chinamen think, act, and feel almost exactly like us ; and 
we soon find that we are perfectly like them, excepting 
that all they do is more clear, more pure, and decorous 
than with us. 

"With them all is orderly, citizen-like, without great 
passion or poetic flight ; and there is a strong resemblance 
to my ' Hermann and Dorothea,' as well as to the English 
novels of Richardson. They likewise differ from us, inas- 
much as with them external nature is always associated 
with the human figures. You always hear the goldfish 
splashing in the pond, the birds are always singing on the 
bough, the day is always serene and sunny, the night is 
always clear. There is much talk about the moon, but 
it does not alter the landscape, its light is conceived to be 
as bright as day itself ; and the interior of the houses is 
as neat and elegant as their pictures. For instance, 4 1 
heard the lovely girls laughing, and when I got a sight of 
them, they were sitting on cane chairs.' There you have, 
at once, the prettiest situation ; for cane chairs are 
necessarily associated with the greatest lightness and 
elegance. Then there is an infinite number of legends 
which are constantly introduced into the narrative, and are 
applied almost like proverbs ; as, for instance, one of a 
girl, who was so light and graceful in the feet, that she 
could balance herself on a flower without breaking it; and 
thes. another, of a young man so virtuous and brave, that 

p2 



212 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1827. 



in his thirtieth year he had the honour to talk with the 
Emperor ; then there is another of two lovers who showed 
such great purity during a long acquaintance, that when 
they were on one occasion obliged to pass the night in the 
same chamber, they occupied the time with conversation, 
and did not approach one another. 

"And in the same way, there are innumerable other 
legends, all turning upon what is moral and proper. It is 
by this severe moderation in everything that the Chinese 
Empire has sustained itself for thousands of years, and 
will endure hereafter. 

" I find a highly remarkable contrast to this Chinese 
novel in the ' Chansons de Beranger,' which have, almost 
every one, some immoral licentious subject for their 
foundation, and which would be extremely odious to me if 
managed by a genius inferior to Beranger ; he, how- 
ever, has made them not only tolerable, but pleasing. Tell 
me yourself, is it not remarkable that the subjects of the 
Chinese poet should be so thoroughly moral, and those of 
the first French poet of the present day be exactly the 
contrary ? " 

" Such a talent as Beranger's," said I, " would find no 
field in moral subjects." 

"You are right," said Groethe ; " the very perversions of 
Ins time have revealed and developed his better nature." 

" But," said I, " is this Chinese romance one of their 
best ? " 

"By no means," said Goethe; "the Chinese have 
thousands of them, and had already when our forefathers 
were still living in the woods. 

"I am more and more convinced," he continued, "that 
poetry is the universal possession of mankind, revealing 
itself everywhere, and at all times, in hundreds and 
hundreds of men. One makes it a little better than 
another, and swims on the surface a little longer than 
another — that is all. Herr von Matthisson must not 
think he is the man, nor must I think that I am the man ; 
but each must say to himself, that the gift of poetry is by 
no means so very rare, and that nobody need think very 
much of himself because he has written a good poem. 

"But, really, we Germans are very likely to fall too 



1827.J 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



213 



easily into this pedantic conceit, when we do not look be- 
yond the narrow circle which surrounds us. I therefore 
like to look about me in foreign nations, and advise every 
one to do the same. National literature is now rather an 
unmeaning term ; the epoch of World literature is at hand, 
and every one must strive to hasten its approach. But, 
while we thus value what is foreign, we must not bind 
ourselves to anything in particular, and regard it as a 
model. We must not give this value to the Chinese, or 
the Servian, or Calderon, or the Nibelungen ; but if we 
really want a pattern, we must always return to the 
ancient Greeks, in whose works the beauty of mankind is 
constantly represented. All the rest we must look at only 
historically, appropriating to ourselves what is good, so far 
as it goes." 

I was glad to hear Goethe talk at length on a subject of 
such importance. The bells of passing sledges allured us 
to the window, as we expected that the long procession 
which went out to Belvidere this morning would return 
about this time. 

Goethe, meanwhile, continued his instructive conversa- 
tion. We talked of Alexander Manzoni ; and he told me 
that Count Reinhard, not long since, saw Manzoni at Paris, 
where, as a young author of celebrity, he had been well 
received in society, and that he was now living happily 
on his estate in the neighbourhood of Milan, with a young 
family and his mother. 

"Manzoni," continued he, "wants nothing except to 
know what a good poet he is, and what rights belong to 
him as such. He has too much respect for history, and on 
this account is always adding notes to his pieces, in which 
he shows how faithful he has been to detail. Now, though 
his facts may be historical, his characters are not so, any 
more than my Thoas and Iphigenia. No poet has ever 
known the historical characters which he has painted ; if 
he had, he could scarcely have made use of them. The 
poet must know what effects he wishes to produce, and 
regulate the nature of his characters accordingly. If I 
had tried to make Egmont as history represents him, the 
father of a dozen children, his light-minded proceedings 
would have appeared very absurd. I needed an Egmont 



214 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[.8 27 . 



more in harmony with his own actions and my poetic 
views ; and this is, as Clara says, my Egmont. 

" What would be the nse of poets, if they only repeated 
the record of the historian ? The poet must go further, 
and give ns, if possible, something higher and better. All 
the characters of Sophocles bear something of that great 
poet's lofty sonl ; and it is the same with the characters of 
Shakspeare. This is as it ought to be. Nay, Shakspeare 
goes farther, and makes his Romans Englishmen; and 
there, too, he is right ; for otherwise his nation would not 
have understood him. 

"Here, again," continued Goethe, "the Greeks were so 
great, that they regarded fidelity to historic facts less than 
the treatment of them by the poet. We have, fortunately, 
a fine example in Philoctetes, which subject has been 
treated by all three of the great tragedians, and lastly and 
best by Sophocles. This poet's excellent play has, fortu- 
nately, come down to us entire, while of the Philoctetes of 
^Eschylus and Euripides only fragments have been found, 
although sufficient to show how they have managed the 
subject. If time permitted, I would restore these pieces, as 
I did the Phaeton of Euripides ; it would be to me no un- 
pleasant or useless task. 

"In this subject the problem was very simple, namely, to 
bring Philoctetes, with his bow, from the island of Lemnos. 
But the manner of doing this was the business of the poet, 
and here each could show the power of his invention, and 
one could excel another. Ulysses must fetch him ; but 
shall he be known by Philoctetes or not ? and if not, how 
shall he be disguised ? Shall Ulysses go alone, or shall he 
have companions, and who shall they be ? In ^Eschylus 
there is no companion ; in Euripides, it is Diomed; in 
Sophocles, the son of Achilles. Then, in what situation 
is Philoctetes to be found ? Shall the island be inhabited or 
not? and, if inhabited, shall any sympathetic soul have 
taken compassion on him or not ? And so with a hundred 
other things, which are all at the discretion of the poet, and 
in the selection and omission of which one may show his 
superiority in wisdom to another. Here is the grand point, 
and our present poets should do like the ancients. They 
should not be always asking whether a subdect has been used 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE 



215 



before, and look to south and north for unheard-of adven- 
tures, which are often barbarous enough, and merely make 
an impression as incidents. But to make something of a 
simple subject by a masterly treatment requires intellect 
and great talent, and these we do not find." 

Some passing sledges again allured us to the window ; 
but it was not the expected train from Belvedere. We 
laughed and talked about trivial matters, and then I asked 
Goethe how the novel was going on. 

" I have not touched it of late," said he ; " but one inci- 
dent more must yet take place in the introduction. Tho 
lion must roar as the princess passes the booth ; upon 
which some good remarks may be made on the formidable 
nature of this mighty beast." 

" That is a very happy thought," said I ; " for thus you 
gain an introduction, which is not only good and essential 
in its place, but which gives a greater effect to all that 
follows. Hitherto the lion has appeared almost too gentle, 
inasmuch as he has shown no trace of ferocity ; but by 
roaring he at least makes us suspect how formidable he is, 
and the effect is heightened when he gently follows the 
boy's flute." 

" This mode of altering and improving," said Goethe, 
" where by continued invention the imperfect is heightened 
to the perfect, is the right one. But the re-making and 
carrying further what is already complete — as, for instance, 
Walter Scott has done with my ' Mignon,' * whom, in addi- 
tion to her other qualities, he makes deaf and dumb — this 
mode of altering I cannot commend." 

Thurs. evening, Feb. 1. — Goethe told me of a visit which 
the Crown Prince of Russia had been making him in com- 
pany with the Grand Duke. " The princes Charles and 
William of Prussia," said he, "were also with me this 
morning. The Crown Prince and Grand Duke stayed 
nearly three hours, and we talked about many things, which 
gave me a high opinion of the intellect, taste, knowledge, 
and way of thinking of these young princes." 

Goethe had a volume of the "Theory of Colours " before 
him. " I still," said he, " owe you an answer with respect 

* This allusion is to Fenella in "Peveril of the Peak.*' 



216 



CONVEBSATHHTS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



to tlie phenomenon of the coloured shadows ; but as this pre- 
supposes a great deal, and is connected with much besides, 
I will not give you an explanation detached from the rest, 
but rather think it would be better if, on the evenings when 
we meet, we read through the whole ' Theory of Colours ' 
together. Thus we shall always have a solid subject for 
discourse; and you yourself will have made the whole 
thoory so much your own, that you will hardly know how 
you have come by it. What you have already learned 
begins to live and to be productive within you ; and hence 
I foresee this science will soon be your own property. Now 
read the first section." 

With these words Goethe laid the open book before me. 
I felt highly pleased with his good intentions towards me. 
I read the first paragraph respecting the physiological * 
colours. 

" You see," said Groethe, "that there is nothing without 
us that is not also within us, and that the eye, like the ex- 
ternal world, has its colours. Since a great point in this 
science is the decided separation of the objective from the 
subjective, I have properly begun with the colours which 
belong to the eye, that in all our perceptions we may accu- 
rately distinguish whether a colour really exists externally 
to ourselves, or whether it is only a seeming colour which 
the eye itself has produced. I think that I have begun at 
the right end, by first disposing of the organ by means of 
which all our perceptions and observations must take 
place." 

I read on as far as those interesting paragraphs where it 
is taught that the eye has need of change, since it never 
willingly dwells on the same colour, but always requires 
another, and that so urgently that it produces colours itself 
if it does not actually find them. 

This remark led our conversation to a great law which 
pervades all nature, and on which all life and all the joy of 
life depend. " This," said Groethe, " is the case not only 
with all our other senses, but also with our higher spiritual 
nature ; and it is because the eye is so eminent a sense, that 
this law of required change (Gesetz des geforderten Wech- 

* Eckermann says " psychologisch," but this is manifestly a mis- 
print. — Trans. 



i8» 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



217 



sets) is so striking and so especially clear with respect to 
colours. We have dances which please us in a high degree 
on account of the alteration of major and minor, while 
dances in only one of these modes weary us at once." 

" The same law," said I, " seems to lie at the foundation of 
a good style, where we like to avoid a sound which we have 
just heard. Even on the stage a great deal might be done 
with this law, if it were well applied. Plays, especially 
tragedies, in which an uniform tone uninterrupted "by 
change prevails, have always something wearisome about 
them ; and if the orchestra plays melancholy, depressing 
music during the entr'actes of a melancholy piece, we are 
tortured by an insupportable feeling, which we would escape 
by all possible means." 

"Perhaps," said Goethe, "the lively scenes introduced 
into Shakspeare's plays rest upon this ' law of required 
change,' but it does not seem applicable to the higher 
tragedy of the Greeks, where, on the contrary, a certain 
fundamental tone pervades the whole." 

" The Greek tragedy," said I, " is not of such a length 
as to be rendered wearisome by one pervading tone. Then 
there is an interchange of chorus and dialogue ; and the 
sublime sense is of such a kind that it cannot become 
fatiguing, since a certain genuine reality, which is always of 
a cheerful nature, constantly lies at the foundation." 

" You may be right," said Goethe ; " and it would be well 
worth the trouble to investigate how far the Greek tragedy 
is subject to the general ' law of required change.' You 
see how all things are connected with each other, and how a 
law respecting the theory of colours can lead to an inquiry 
into Greek tragedy. We must only take care not to push 
such a law too far, and make it the foundation for much 
besides. We shall go more safely if we only apply it by 
analogy." 

We talked of the manner in which Goethe had set forth 
his theory of colours, deducing the whole from great funda- 
mental laws, and always referring to these the single 
phenomena ; by which method he had made it very com- 
prehensible and fitted for the intellect. 

" This may be the case," said Goethe, " and you may 
praise me on that account ; but, nevertheless, the method 



218 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [l827- 

requires students who do not live amid distractions, and 
are capable of taking up the matter. Some very clever 
people have been imbued with my theory of colours ; but, 
unfortunately, they do not adhere to the straight path, but 
before I am aware of it they turn aside, and follow an idea 
instead of keeping their eyes properly fixed on the object. 
Nevertheless, a good head-piece, when really seeking the 
truth, can always do a great deal." 

We talked about the professors who, after they had found 
a better theory, still talked of that of Newton. " This is 
not to be wondered at," said Goethe ; " such people con- 
tinue in error because they are indebted to it for their 
existence. They would otherwise have to learn everything 
over again, and that would be very inconvenient." " But," 
said I, "how can their experiments prove the truth when 
the basis of their doctrine is false ? " " They do not prove 
the truth," said Goethe, " nor is such the intention ; the 
only point with these professors is to prove their own 
opinion. On this account, they conceal all those experi- 
ments which would reveal the truth, and show their doc- 
trine was untenable. Then, with respect to the scholars — 
what do they care for the truth ? They, like the rest, are 
perfectly satisfied if they can prate away about the subject 
empirically ; — that is the whole matter. Men altogether 
are of a peculiar nature : as soon as a lake is frozen over, 
they flock to it by hundreds, and amuse themselves on the 
smooth surface; but which of them thinks of inquiring 
how deep it is, and what sort of fish are swimming about 
under the ice ? Niebuhr has just discovered a very ancient 
commercial treaty between Rome and Carthage, from which 
it appears that all Livy's history respecting the early condi- 
tion of the Roman people is a mere fable, and that Rome at 
a very early period was in a far higher state of civilization 
than Livy represents ; but if you imagine that this treaty 
will occasion a great reform in the manner of teaching 
Roman history, you are mistaken. Think of the frozen 
lake. I have learned to know mankind : thus it is, and no 
otherwise." 

"Nevertheless," said I, "yon cannot repent of having 
written your theory of colours, since not only have yon laid 
a firm foundation for this excellent science, but you have 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 219 

produced a model of scientific treatment, which can always 
be followed in the treatment of similar subjects." 

"I do not repent it at all," said Goethe, "though I have 
expended half a lif e upon it. Perhaps 1 might have written 
half a dozen tragedies more, but that is all, and people 
enough will come after me to do that. 

" After all, you are right ; I think the treatment of the 
subject is good, there is method in it. In the same manner 
I have also written a musical theory, and my metamor- 
phosis of plants is based on the same method of observation 
and deduction. 

"With my metamorphosis of plants, I went on singu- 
larly enough. I came to it as Herschel came to his dis- 
coveries. Herschel was so poor that he could not purchase 
a telescope, but was obliged to make one for himself. In 
this his good fortune consisted; for the home-made tele- 
scope was better than any other, and with it he made his 
great discoveries. I came to botany by the empirical road. 
I now know well enough, that with respect to the formation 
of the sexes, the theory went so far into detail that I had 
not courage to grasp it. This impelled me to pursue the 
subject in my own way, and to find that which was common 
to all plants without distinction, and thus I discovered the 
law of metamorphosis. 

" To pursue botany further in detail is not my purpose ; 
this I leave to others who are my superiors in the matter. 
My only concern was to reduce the phenomena to a general 
fundamental law. 

" Mineralogy has interested me only for two reasons ; 
first, I valued it for its great practical utility, and then I 
thought to find a document elucidating the primary forma- 
tion of the world, of which Werner's doctrine gave hopes. 
Since this science has been turned upside down by the 
death of that excellent man, I do not proceed further in it, 
but remain quiet with my own convictions. 

"In the theory of colours, I have next to develop the 
formation of the rainbow. This is an extremely difficult 
problem, which, however, I hope to solve. On this account, 
I am glad to go through the theory of colours once more 
with you, since thus, especially with your interest for the 
subject, it becomes quite fresh again. 



220 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



" I have," continued Goethe, " attempted natural science 
in nearly every department ; but, nevertheless, my tenden- 
cies have always been confined to such objects as lay ter- 
restrially around me, and could be immediately perceived 
by the senses. On this account, I have never occupied 
myself with astronomy, because here the senses are not 
sufficient, and one must have recourse to instruments, cal- 
culations, and mechanics, which require a whole life, and 
were not in my line. 

"If I have done anything with respect to the subjects 
which lay in my way, I had this advantage, that my life 
fell in a time that was richer than any other in great 
natural discoveries. As a child, I became acquainted with 
Franklin's doctrine of electricity, the law of which he had 
just discovered. Thus through my whole life, down to the 
present hour, has one great discovery followed another, so 
that I was not only directed towards nature in my early 
years, but my interest in it has been maintained in it ever 
since. 

" Advances such as I could never have foreseen are now 
made even on paths which I opened, and I feel like one who 
walks towards the morning dawn, and when the sun rises, 
is astonished at its brilliancy." 

Among the Germans, Goethe here took occasion to men- 
tion the names of Cams, D'Alton, and Meyer of Konigsberg. 
with admiration. 

"If," continued Goethe, "when the truth was once 
found, people would not again pervert and obscure it, I 
should be satisfied ; for mankind requires something 
positive, to be handed down from generation to generation, 
and it would be well if the positive were also the true. On 
this account, I should be glad if people came to a clear 
understanding in natural science, and then adhered to the 
truth, not transcending again after all had been done in the 
region of the comprehensible. But mankind cannot be at 
peace, and confusion always returns before one is aware of it. 

" Thus they are now pulling to pieces the five books of 
Moses, and if an annihilating criticism is injurious in any- 
thing, it is so in matters of religion ; for here everything 
depends upon faith, to which we cannot return when we 
have once lost it. 



,82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



221 



" In poetry, an annihilating criticism is not so injurious. 
Wolf has demolished Homer, but he has not been able to 
injure the poem ; for this poem has a miraculous power 
like the heroes of Walhalla, who hew one another to pieces 
in the morning, but sit down to dinner with whole limbs at 
noon." 

Goethe was in the best humour, and I was delighted to 
hear him talk once more on such important subjects. 
" We will quietly keep to the right way," said he, " and let 
others go as they please ; that is, after all, the best plan." 

Wed., Feb. 7. — To-day Goethe spoke severely of certain 
critics, who were not satisfied with Lessing, and made un- 
just demands upon him. "When people," said he, 

compare the pieces of Lessing with those of the ancients, 
and call them paltry and miserable, what do they mean ? 
Rather pity the extraordinary man for being obliged to live 
in a pitiful time, which afforded him no better materials 
than are treated in his pieces; pity him, because in his 
' Minna von Barnhelm,' he found nothing better to do than 
to meddle with the squabbles of Saxony and Prussia. His 
constant polemical turn, too, resulted from the badness of his 
time. In ' Emilia Galotti,' he vented his pique against 
princes ; in ' Nathan,' against the priests." 

Fri., Feb. 16. — I told Groethe that I lately had been 
reading Winckelmann's work upon the imitation of Greek 
works of art, and I confessed that it often seemed to me 
that Winckelmann was not perfectly clear about his 
subject. 

" You are quite right," said Goethe ; "we sometimes find 
him merely groping about ; but what is the great matter, 
his groping always leads to something. He is like Colum- 
bus, when he had not yet discovered the new world, yet 
had a presentiment of it in his mind. We learn nothing 
by reading him, but we become something. 

"Now, Meyer has gone further, and has carried the 
knowledge of art to its highest point. . His history of art 
is an immortal work ; but he would not have become what 
he is, if, in his youth, he had not formed himself on 
Winckelmaim, and walked in the path which Winckelmann 
pointed out. 

" Thus you see once again what is done for a man by a 



222 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



great predecessor, and the advantage of making a proper 
use of him." 

(Sup.*) Wed., Feh 21.— Dined with Goethe. He spoke 
much, and with admiration, of Alexander von Humboldt, 
whose work on Cuba and Columbia he had begun to read, 
and whose views as to the project for making a passage 
through the Isthmus of Panama appeared to have a 
particular interest for him. "Humboldt," said Goethe, 
44 has, with a great knowledge of his subject, given other 
points where, bj making use of some streams which flow 
into the Gulf of Mexico, the end may be perhaps better 
attained than at Panama. All this is reserved for the 
future, and for an enterprising spirit. So much, however, 
is certain, that, if they succeed in cutting such a canal that 
ships of any burden and size can be navigated through it 
from the Mexican Gulf to the Pacific Ocean, innumerable 
benefits would result to the whole human race, civilized and 
uncivilized. But I should wonder if the United States were 
to let an opportunity escape of getting such work into their 
own hands. It may be foreseen that this young state, 
with its decided predilection to the West, will, in thirty or 
forty years, have occupied and peopled the large tract of 
land beyond the Rocky Mountains. It may, furthermore, be 
foreseen that along the whole coast of the Pacific Ocean, 
where nature has already formed the most capacious and 
secure harbours, important commercial towns will gradu- 
ally arise, for the furtherance of a great intercourse 
between China and the East Indies and the United States. 
In such a case, it would not only be desirable, but almost 
necessary, that a more rapid communication should be 
maintained between the eastern and western shores of 
North America, both by merchant- ships and men-of-war, 
than has hitherto been possible with the tedious, disagree- 
able, and expensive voyage round Cape Horn. I therefore 
repeat, that it is absolutely indispensable for the United 
States to effect a passage from the Mexican Gulf to the 
Pacific Ocean ; and I am certain that they will do it. 

" Would that I might live to see it ! — but I shall not. I 
should like to see another thing — a junction of the Danube 
and the Rhine. But this undertaking is so gigantic that I 
have doubts of its completion, particularly when I consider 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



223 



our German resources. And thirdly, and lastly, I should 
wish to see England in possession of a canal through the 
Isthmus of Suez. Would I could live to see these three great 
works ! it would be well worth the trouble to last some fifty 
years more for the very purpose." 

(Sup.*) T fairs., Mar. 1. — Dined with Goethe. He 
related to me that he had received a communication from 
Count Sternberg and Zauper, which had given him great 
pleasure. We then talked a great deal about the theory 
of colours, the subjective prismatic experiments, and the 
laws by which the rainbow is formed. He was pleased 
with my continually increasing interest in these difncnlt 
subjects. 

(Sup.*) Wed., Mar. 21. — Goethe showed me a little 
book, by Hinrichs, on the nature of antique tragedy. " I 
have read it with great interest," said he. " Hinrichs has 
taken the OEdipus and Antigone of Sophocles as the founda- 
tion whereon to develop his views. It is very remarkable ; 
and I will lend it to you that you may read it, and that we 
may be able to converse upon it. I am by no means of his 
opinion ; but it is highly instructive to see how a man of 
such thoroughly philosophical culture regards a poetical 
work of art from the point of view peculiar to his school, t 
I will say no more to-day, that I may not influence your 
opinion. Only read it, and you will find that it suggests 
all kinds of thoughts." 

(Sup.*) Wed., Mar. 28. — I brought back to Goethe the 
book by Hinrichs, which I had read attentively. I had 
also gone once more through all the plays of Sophocles, to 
be in complete possession of my subject. 

"Now," said Goethe, "how did you like him? He 
attacks a matter well — does he not ? " 

" This book affected me very strangely," said L " No 
other book has aroused so many thoughts in me as this ; 
and yet there is none I have so often been disposed to 
contradict." 

" That is exactly the point," said Goethe. " What we 
agree with leaves us inactive, but contradiction makes us 
productive." 1 



+ That of Hegel.— Trans. 



224. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



" His intentions," said I, " appear jto me in the highest 
degree laudable, and he by no means confines himself to the 
surface of things. But he so often loses himself in re- 
finements and motives — and that in so subjective a manner 
— that he loses the true aspect of the subject in detail, as 
well as the survey of the whole : and in such a case one is 
obliged to do violence both to oneself and the theme to 
think as he does. Besides, I have often fancied that my 
organs were not fine enough to apprehend the unusual 
subtlety of his distinctions." 

"If they were philosophically prepared like his," said 
Goethe, " it would be better. But, to speak frankly, I am 
sorry that a man of undoubted innate power from the 
northern coast of Germany, like Hinrichs, should be so 
spoilt by the philosophy of Hegel as to lose all unbiassed 
and natural observation and thought, and gradually to get 
into an artificial and heavy style, both of thought and ex- 
pression ; so that we find passages in his book where our 
understanding comes to a standstill, and we no longer 
know what we are reading." 

" I have fared no better," said I. " Still I have rejoiced 
to meet with some passages, which have appeared to me 
perfectly clear and fitted for humanity in general ; such, 
for instance, as his relation of the fable of CEdipus." 

"Here," said Goethe, " he has been obliged to confine 
himself strictly to his subject. But there are in his book 
several passages in which the thought does not progress, 
but in which the obscure language constantly moves on 
the same spot and in the same circle, just like the ' Einma- 
leins ' * of the witch in my ' Faust.' Give me the book 
again. Of his sixth lecture upon the chorus, I scarcely 
understood anything. "What do you say, for instance, to 
this passage, which occurs near the end : — 

" ' This realization (i. e. of popular life) is, as the true 
signification thereof,t on this account alone its true real- 

* This word, which signifies " multiplication table," refers to the 
arithmetical jargon uttered by the witch in her kitchen. — Trans. 

f The word ' ' derselben, " in the passage as cited, seems to want 
an antecedent. The reader is requested not to be too critical with 
this almost unreadable passage, which Goethe only refers to as an 
instance of obscurity. — Trans. 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



225 



ization, which, as a truth and certainty to itself, there- 
fore constitutes the universally mental certainty, which 
certainly is at the same time the atoning certainty of the 
chorus, so that in this certainty alone, which has shown 
itself as the result of the combined movement of the tragic 
action, the chorus preserves its fitting relation to the 
universal popular consciousness, and in this capacity does 
not merely represent the people, but is that people ac- 
cording to its certainty.' 

" I think we have had enough of this. What must the 
English and French think of the language of our philoso- 
phers, when we Germans do not understand them our- 
selves." " And in spite of all this," said I, " we both agree 
that a noble purpose lies at the foundation of the book, and 
that it possesses the quality of awakening thoughts." 

" His idea of the relation between family and state," said 
Goethe, " and the tragical conflicts that may arise from 
them, is certainly good and suggestive ; still I cannot allow 
that it is the only right one, or even the best for tragic art. 
We are indeed all members both of a family and of a state, 
and a tragical fate does not often befal us which does not 
wound us in both capacities. Still we might be very good 
tragical characters, if we were merely members of a family 
or merely members of a state ; for, after all, the only point 
is to get a conflict which admits of no solution, and this 
may arise from an antagonistical position in any relation 
whatever, provided a person has a really natural foundation, 
and is himself really tragic. Thus Ajax falls a victim to 
the demon of wounded honour, and Hercules to the demon 
of jealousy. In neither of these cases is there the least 
conflict between family piety and political virtue ; though 
this, according to Hinrichs, should be the element of Greek 
tragedy." 

" One sees clearly," says I, " that in this theory he merely 
had Antigone in his mind. He also appears to have had 
before his eyes merely the character and mode of action of 
this heroine, as he makes the assertion that family piety 
appears most pure in woman, and especially in a sister; 
and that a sister can love only a brother with perfect purity, 
and without sexual feeling." 

"I should think," returned Goethe, "that the love of 

Q 



226 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



sister for sister was still more pure and unsexual. As i£ 
we did not know that numerous cases have occurred in 
which the most sensual inclinations have existed between 
"brother and sister, both knowingly and unknowingly ! " 

"You must have remarked generally," continued Goethe, 
" that Hinrichs, in considering Greek tragedy, sets out from 
the idea ; and that he looks upon Sophocles as one who, in 
the invention and arrangement of his pieces, likewise set 
out from an idea, and regulated the sex and rank of his 
characters accordingly. But Sophocles, when he wrote his 
pieces, by no means started from an idea ; on the contrary, 
he seized upon some ancient ready-made popular tradition 
in which a good idea existed, and then only thought of 
adapting it in the best and most effective manner for the 
theatre. The Atreides will not allow Ajax to be buried ; 
but as in Antigone the sister struggles for the brother, so 
in the Ajax the brother struggles for the brother. That 
the sister takes charge of the unburied Polyneices, and the 
brother takes charge of the fallen Ajax, is a contingent 
circumstance, and does not belong to the invention of the 
poet, but to the tradition, which the poet followed and 
was obliged to follow." 

"What he says about Creon's conduct," replied I, "ap- 
pears to be equally untenable. He tries to prove that, in 
prohibiting the burial of Polyneices, Creon acts from pure 
political virtue; and since Creon is not merely a man, 
but also a prince, he lays down the proposition, that, 
as a man represents the tragic power of the state, this 
man can be no other than he who is himself the personi- 
fication of the state itself — namely, the prince ; and that of 
all persons the man as prince must be just that person who 
displays the greatest political virtue." 

" These are assertions which no one will believe," returned 
Goethe with a smile. " Besides, Creon by no means acts 
out of political virtue, but from hatred towards the dead. 
When Polyneices endeavoured to reconquer his paternal 
inheritance, from which he had been forcibly expelled, he 
did not commit such a monstrous crime against the state 
that his death was insufficient, and that the further punish- 
ment of the innocent corpse was required. 

"An action should never be placed in the category of 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



22? 



political virtue, which is opposed to virtue in general 
When Creon forbids the burial of Polyneices, and not only 
taints the air with the decaying corpse, but also affords an 
opportunity for the dogs and birds of prey to drag about 
pieces torn from the dead body, and thus to defile the altars 
— an action so offensive both to gods and men is by no 
means politically virtuous, but on the contrary a political 
crime. Besides, he has everybody in the play against him. 
He has the elders of the state, who form the chorus, against 
him; he has the people at large against him; he has 
Teiresias against him ; he has his own family against 
him ; but he hears not, and obstinately persists in his im- 
piety, until he has brought to ruin all who belong to him, 
and is himself at last nothing but a shadow." 

"And still," said I, "when one hears him speak, one 
cannot help believing that he is somewhat in the right." 

"That is the very thing," said Groethe, "in which 
Sophocles is a master ; and in which consists the very life 
of the dramatic in general. His characters all possess this 
gift of eloquence, and know how to explain the motives for 
their action so convincingly, that the hearer is almost 
always on the side of the last speaker. 

" One can see that, in his youth, he enjoyed an excellent 
rhetorical education, by which he became trained to look 
for all the reasons and seeming reasons of things. Still, 
his great talent in this respect betrayed him into faults, as 
he sometimes went too far. 

" There is a passage in Antigone which I always look 
upon as a blemish, and I would give a great deal for an apt 
philologist to prove that it is interpolated and spurious. 

" After the heroine has, in the course of the piece, ex- 
plained the noble motives for her action, and displayed the 
elevated purity of her soul, she at last, when she is led to 
death, brings forward a motive which is quite unworthy, 
and almost borders upon the comic. 

" She says that, if she had been a mother, she would not 
have done, either for her dead children or for her dead 
husband, what she has done for her brother. For," says 
she, " if my husband died I could have had another, and if 
my children died I could have had others by my new hus- 
band. But with my brother the case is different. I cannot 

Q2 



228 



C0NVEKSATI0NS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



have another brother ; for since my mother and father are 
dead, there is no one to beget one. 

" This is, at least, the bare sense of this passage, which 
in my opinion, when placed in the mouth of a heroine going 
to her death, disturbs the tragic tone, and appears to me 
very far-fetched — to savour too much of dialectical calcula- 
tion. As I said, I should like a philologist to show us that 
the passage is spurious." 

We then conversed further upon Sophocles, remarking 
that in his pieces he always less considered a moral tendency 
than an apt treatment of the subject in hand, particularly 
with regard to theatrical effect. 

"I do not object," said Goethe, "to a dramatic poet 
having a moral influence in view ; but when the point is to 
bring his subject clearly and effectively before his audience, 
his moral purpose proves of little use, and he needs much 
more a faculty for delineation and a familiarity with the 
stage to know what to do and what to leave undone. If 
there be a moral in the subject, it will appear, and the poet 
has nothing to consider but the effective and artistic treat- 
ment of his subject. If a poet has as high a soul as Sophocles, 
his influence will always be moral, let him do what he will. 
Besides, he knew the stage, and understood his craft 
thoroughly." 

"How well he knew the theatre," answered I, "and how 
much he had in view a theatrical effect, we see in his 
' Philoctetes,' and the great resemblance which this piece 
bears to ' (Edipus in Colonos,' both in the arrangement and 
the course of action. 

" In both pieces we see the hero in a helpless condition ; 
both are old and suffering from bodily infirmities. (Edipus 
has, at his side, his daughter as a guide and a prop ; Phi- 
loctetes has his bow. The resemblance is carried still 
further. Both have been thrust aside in their afflictions ; 
but when the oracle declares with respect to both of them, 
that the victory can be obtained with their aid alone, an 
endeavour is made to get them back again ; Ulysses comes 
to Philoctetes, Creon to (Edipus. Both begin their discourse 
with cunning and honeyed words ; but when these are of no 
avail they use violence, and we see Philoctetes deprived of 
Jiis bow, and (Edipus of his daughter." 



1827.] 



CONVEESATIONS OF GOETHE. 



229 



"Such acts of violence," said Goethe, 66 give an oppor- 
tunity for excellent altercations, and such, situations of 
helplessness excited the emotions of the audience, on which 
account the poet, whose object it was to produce an effect 
upon the public, liked to introduce them. In order to 
strengthen this effect in the CEdipus, Sophocles brings him 
in as a weak old man, when he still, according to all cir- 
cumstances, must have been a man in the prime of life. 
But at this vigorous age, the poet could not have used him 
for his play; he would have produced no effect, and he 
therefore made him a weak, helpless old man." 

" The resemblance to Philoctetes," continued I, "goes 
still further. The hero, in both pieces, does not act, but 
suffers. On the other hand, each of these passive heroes 
has two active characters against him. CEdipus has Creon 
and Polyneices, Philoctetes has Neoptolemus and Ulysses ; 
two such opposing characters were necessary to discuss the 
subject on all sides, and to gain the necessary body and 
fulness for the piece." 

"You might add," interposed Goethe, "that both pieces 
bear this further resemblance, that we see in both the ex- 
tremely effective situation of a happy change, since one 
hero, in his disconsolate situation, has his beloved daughter 
restored to him, and the other, his no less beloved bow." 

The happy conclusions of these two pieces are also 
similar ; for both heroes are delivered from their sorrows : 
CEdipus is blissfully snatched away, and as for Philoctetes, 
we are forewarned by the oracle of his cure, before Troy, 
by iEsculapius. 

"When we," continued Goethe, "for our modern pur- 
poses, wish to learn how to conduct ourselves upon the 
theatre, Moliere is the man to whom we should apply. 

"Do you know his 1 Malade Imaginaire ? ' There is a 
scene in it which, as often as I read the piece, appears to 
me the symbol of a perfect knowledge of the boards. I 
mean the scene where the * Malade Imaginaire' asks his 
little daughter Louison, if there has not been a young man 
in the chamber of her eldest sister. 

"JSTow, any other who did not understand his craft so 
well would have let the little Louison plainly tell the fact 
at once, and there would have been the end of the matter. 



230 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



"But wkat various motives for delay are introduced by 
Moliere into this examination, for the sake of life and 
effect. He first makes the little Louison act as if she did 
not understand her father ; then she denies that she knows 
anything ; then, threatened with the rod, she falls down as 
if dead ; then, when her father bursts out in despair, she 
springs up from her feigned swoon with roguish hilarity, 
and at last, little by little, she confesses all. 

" My explanation can only give you a very meagre notion 
of the animation of the scene ; but read this scene yourself 
till you become thoroughly impressed with its theatrical 
worth, and you will confess that there is more practical in- 
struction contained in it than in all the theories in the 
world. 

"I have known and loved Moliere," continued Goethe, 
"from my youth, and have learned from him during my 
whole life. I never fail to read some of his plays every year, 
that I may keep up a constant intercourse with what is ex- 
cellent. It is not merely the perfectly artistic treatment 
which delights me ; but particularly the amiable nature, the 
highly-formed mind, of the poet. There is in him a grace 
and a feeling for the decorous, and a tone of good society, 
which his innate beautiful nature could only attain by 
daily intercourse with the most eminent men of his age. 
Of Menander, I only know the few fragments ; but these 
give me so high an idea of him, that I look upon 
this great Greek as the only man who could be compared 
to Moliere." 

" I am happy," returned I, " to hear you speak so highly 
of Moliere. This sounds a little different from Herr von 
Schlegel ! I have to-day, with great repugnance, swallowed 
what he says concerning Moliere in his lectures on dra- 
matic poetry. He quite looks down upon him, as a vulgar 
buffoon, who has only seen good society at a distance, and 
whose business it was to invent all sorts of pleasantries 
for the amusement of his lord. In these low pleasantries, 
Schlegel admits he was most happy, but he stole the best 
of them. He was obliged to force himself into the higher 
school of comedy, and never succeeded in it." 

" To a man like Schlegel," returned Goethe, " a genuine 
nature like Moliere's is a veritable eyesore ; he feels that he 



1 8*7-3 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



231 



has nothing in common with him, he cannot endure him. 
The ' Misanthrope,' which I read over and over again, as 
one of my most favourite pieces, is repugnant to him ; he 
is forced to praise ' Tartuffe ' a little, but he lets him down 
again as much as he can. Schlegel cannot forgive Moliere 
for ridiculing the affectation of learned ladies ; he feels, 
probably as one of my friends has remarked, that he him- 
self would have been ridiculed if he had lived with Moliere. 

"It is not to be denied," continued Goethe, "that Schlegel 
knows a great deal, and one is almost terrified at his extra- 
ordinary attainments and his extensive reading. But this 
is not enough. All the learning in the world is still no 
judgment. His criticism is completely one-sided, because 
in all theatrical pieces he merely regards the skeleton of 
the plot and arrangement, and only points out small points 
of resemblance to great predecessors, without troubling 
himself in the least as to what the author brings forward of 
graceful life and the culture of a high soul. But of what 
use are all the arts of a talent, if we do not find in a 
theatrical piece an amiable or great personality of the 
author. This alone influences the cultivation of the people. 

" I look upon the manner in which Schlegel has treated 
the French drama as a sort of recipe for the formation of 
a bad critic, who is wanting in every organ for the vene- 
ration of excellence, and who passes over a sound nature 
and a great character as if they were chaff and stubble." 

" Shakspeare and Calderon, on the other hand," I replied, 
" he treats justly, and even with decided affection." 

"Both," returned Goethe, "are of such a kind that one 
cannot say enough in praise of them, although I should not 
have wondered if Schlegel had scornfully let them down 
also. Thus he is also just to ^Eschylus and Sophocles ; but 
this ^does 'not seem to arise so much from a lively con- 
viction of their extraordinary merit as from the tradition 
among philologists to place them both very high ; for, in fact, 
Schlegel's own little person is not sufficient to comprehend 
and appreciate such lofty natures. If this had been the 
case, he would have been just to Euripides too, and would 
have gone to work with him in a different manner. But he 
knows that philologists do not estimate him very highly, 
and he therefore feels no little delight that he is permitted 



232 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



upon such high authority, to fall foul of this mighty ancient, 
and to schoolmaster him as much as he can. I do not deny 
that Euripides has his faults ; but he was always a very 
respectable competitor with Sophocles and ./Eschylus. If 
he did not possess the great earnestness and the severe 
artistic completeness of his two predecessors, and as a dra- 
matic poet treated things a little more leniently and 
humanely, he probably knew his Athenians well enough to 
be aware that the chord which he struck was the right one 
for his contemporaries. A poet whom Socrates called his 
friend, whom Aristotle lauded, whom Menander admired, 
and for whom Sophocles and the city of Athens put on 
mourning on hearing of his death, must certainly have 
been something. If a modern man like Schlegel must 
pick out faults in so great an ancient, he ought only to do 
it upon his knees." 

(Sup.) Sun., April 1. — In the evening with Goethe. I 
conversed with him upon the yesterday's performance of 
his "Iphigenia," in which Herr Kriiger, from the Theatre 
Royal at Berlin, played Orestes with great applause. 

" The piece," said Groethe, " has its difficulties. It is rich 
in internal but poor in external life : the point is to make 
the internal life come out. It is full of the most effective 
means, arising from the various horrors which form the 
foundation of the piece. The printed words are indeed 
only a faint reflex of the life which stirred within me during 
the invention ; but the actor must bring us back to this 
first fire which animated the poet with respect to his sub- 
ject. We wish to see the vigorous Greeks and heroes, with 
the fresh sea-breezes blowing upon them, who, oppressed 
and tormented by various ills and dangers, speak out 
strongly as their hearts prompt them. But we want none 
of those feeble, sentimental actors who have only just 
learned their part by rote, and still less do we want those 
who are not even perfect in their parts. 

" 1 must confess that I have never succeeded in witness- 
ing a perfect representation of my ' Iphigenia.' That was 
the reason why I did not go yesterday ; for I suffer dread- 
fully when I have to do with these spectres who do not 
manifest themselves as they ought." 

"You would probably have been satisfied with Orestes as 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 233 

Herr Kriiger represented him," said I. " There was such 
perspicuity in his acting, that nothing could be more com- 
prehensible or tangible than his part : it seems to comprise 
everything ; and I shall never forget his words and 
gestures. 

" All that belongs to the higher intuition — to the vision 
in this part, was so brought forward by his bodily move- 
ments, and the varying tones of his voice, that one could 
fancy one saw it with one's own eyes. At the sight of this 
Orestes, Schiller would certainly not have missed the furies 
— they were behind him, they were around him. 

" The important place where Orestes, awakening from his 
swoon, believes himself transported to the lower regions, 
succeeded so as to produce astonishment, We saw the 
rows of ancestors engaged in conversation : we saw Orestes 
join them, question them, and become one of their number. 
We felt ourselves transported into the midst of those blessed 
persons, so pure and deep was the feeling of the artist, and 
so great was his power of bringing the impalpable before 
our eyes." 

"You are just the people to be worked upon," said 
Goethe, laughing: "but go on. He appears then to have 
been really good, and his physical capabilities to have 
been great." 

" His organ," said I, " was clear and melodious, besides 
being well practised, and therefore capable of the highest 
flexion and variety. He has at command physical strength 
and bodily activity in the execution of every difficulty. It 
seemed that, during his whole life, he had never neglected 
to cultivate and exercise his body in the most various 
ways." 

"An actor," said Goethe, " should properly go to school 
to a sculptor and a painter ; for, in order to represent a 
Greek hero, it is necessary for him to study carefully the 
antique sculptures which have come down to us, and to 
impress on his mind the natural grace of their sitting, 
standing, and going. But the merely bodily is not enough. 
He must also, by diligent study of the best ancient and 
modern authors, give a great cultivation to his mind. This 
will not only assist him to understand his part, but will 
also give a higher tone to his whole being and his whole 



234 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1827. 



deportment. But tell me more ! What else did you sec- 
good in him ? " 

"It appeared to me," said I, "that he possessed great 
love for his subject. He had by diligent study made every 
detail clear to himself, so that he lived and moved in his 
hero with great freedom ; and nothing remained which he 
had not made entirely his own. Thence arose a just ex- 
pression and a just accentuation for every word ; together 
with such certainty, that the prompter was for him a 
person quite superfluous." 

" I am pleased with this," said Goethe; "this is as it 
ought to be. Nothing is more dreadful than when the 
actors are not masters of their parts, and at every new sen- 
tence must listen to the prompter. By this their acting 
becomes a mere nullity, without any life and power. When 
the actors are not perfect in their parts in a piece like my 
'Iphigenia,' it is better not to play it; for the piece can 
have success only when all goes surely, rapidly, and with 
animation. However, I am glad that it went off so well 
with Kriiger. Zelter recommended him to me, and I 
should have been annoyed if he had not turned out so well 
as he has. I will have a little joke with him, and will 
present him with a prettily bound copy of my 'Iphigenia,' 
with some verses inscribed in reference to his acting." 

The conversation then turned upon the " Antigone " of 
Sophocles, and the high moral tone prevailing in it : and. 
lastly, upon the question — how the moral element came 
into the world ? 

"Through God himself," returned Goethe, "like every- 
thing else. It is no product of human reflection, but a 
beautiful nature inherent and inborn. It is, more or less 7 
inherent in mankind generally, but to a high degree in a 
few eminently gifted minds. These have, by great deeds 
or doctrines, manifested their divine nature ; which, then, 
by the beauty of its appearance, won the love of men, and 
powerfully attracted them to reverence and emulation." 

" A consciousness of the worth of the morally beautiful 
iind good could be attained by experience and wisdom, in- 
nsmuch as the bad showed itself in its consequences as a 
destroyer of happiness, both in individuals and the whole 
body, while the noble and right seemed to produce and 



I82 7 .] 



CONVBESATIONS OF GOETHE. 



235 



secure the happiness of one and all. Thus the morally 
beautiful could become a doctrine, and diffuse itself over 
whole nations as something plainly expressed." 

"I have lately read somewhere," answered I, "the 
opinion that the Greek tragedy had made moral beauty a 
special object." 

"Not so much morality," returned Goethe, "as pure 
humanity in its whole extent ; especially in such positions 
where, by falling into contact with rude power, it could 
assume a tragic character. In this region, indeed, even 
the moral stood as a principal part of human nature, 

" The morality of Antigone, besides, was not invented by 
Sophocles, but was contained in the subject, which 
Sophocles chose the more readily, as it united so much 
dramatic effect with moral beauty." 

Goethe then spoke about the characters of Creon and 
Ismene, and on the necessity for these two persons for the 
development of the beautiful soul of the heroine. 

"All that is noble," said he, "is in itself of a quiet 
nature, and appears to sleep until it is aroused and sum- 
moned forth by contrast. Such a contrast is Creon, who 
is brought in, partly on account of Antigone, in order that 
her noble nature and the right which is on her side 
may be brought out by him, partly on his own account, in 
order that his unhappy error may appear odious to us. 

" But, as Sophocles meant to display the elevated soul of 
his heroine even before the deed, another contrast was 
requisite by which her character might be developed ; and 
this is her sister Ismene. In this character, the poet has 
given us a beautiful standard of the commonplace, so that 
the greatness of Antigone, which is far above such a stand- 
ard, is the more strikingly visible." 

The conversation then turned upon dramatic authors in 
general, and upon the important influence which they ex- 
erted, and could exert, upon the great mass of the people. 

" A great dramatic poet," said Goethe, " if he is at the 
same time productive, and is actuated by a strong noble 
purpose, which pervades all his works, may succeed in 
making the soul of his pieces become the soul of the people. 
1 should think that this was something well worth the 
trouble. From Corneille proceeded an influence capable of 



236 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1827. 



forming heroes. This was something for Napoleon, who 
had need of an heroic people ; on which account, he said of 
Corneille, that if he were still living, he would make a 
prince of him. A dramatic poet who knows his vocation, 
should therefore work incessantly at its higher develop- 
ment, in order that his influence on the people may be 
noble and beneficial. 

" One should not study contemporaries and competitors, 
but the great men of antiquity, whose works have, for cen- 
turies, received equal homage and consideration. Indeed, 
a man of really superior endowments will feel the necessity 
of this, and it is just this need for an intercourse with 
great predecessors, which is the sign of a higher talent. 
Let us study Moliere, let us study Shakspeare, but above all 
things, the old Greeks, and always the Greeks." 

"For highly endowed natures," remarked I, "the study 
of the authors of antiquity may be perfectly invaluable ; 
but, in general, it appears to have little influence upon 
personal character. If this were the case, all philologists 
and theologians would be the most excellent of men. But 
this is by no means the case ; and such connoisseurs of the 
ancient Greek and Latin authors are able people or pitiful 
creatures, according to the good or bad qualities which 
God has given them, or which they have inherited from 
their father and mother." 

"There is nothing to be said against that," returned 
Goethe ; " but it must not, therefore, be said, that the study 
of the authors of antiquity is entirely without effect upon 
the formation of character. A worthless man will always 
remain worthless, and a little mind will not, by daily inter- 
course with the great minds of antiquity, become one inch 
greater. But a noble man, in whose soul God has placed 
the capability for future greatness of character, and ele- 
vation of mind, will, by a knowledge of, and familiar inter- 
course with, the elevated natures of ancient Greeks and 
Bomans, every day make a visible approximation to similar 
greatness." 

(Sup.) Wed., April 11. — I went to-day about one 
o'clock to Goethe, who had invited me to take a drive with 
him before dinner. We took the road to Erfurt. The 
weather was very fine ; the corn-fields on both sides of the 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



237 



way refreshed the eye with, the liveliest green. Goethe 
seemed in his feelings gay and young as the early spring, 
but in his words old in wisdom. 

"I ever repeat it," he began, "the world could not 
exist, if it were not so simple. This wretched soil has 
been tilled a thousand years, yet its powers are always 
the same ; a little rain, a little sun, and each spring it 
grows green and so forth." 

I could make no answer or addition to these words. 
Goethe allowed his eyes to wander over the verdant 
fields, and then, turning again to me, continued thus on 
other subjects : — 

"I have been lately reading something odd, — the let- 
ters of Jacobi and his friends. This is a remarkable 
book, and you must read it; not to learn anything from 
it, but to take a glance into the state of education and 
literature at a time of which people now have no idea. 
We see men who are to a certain extent important, but 
no trace of a similar direction and a common interest ; 
each one as an isolated being goes his own way, without 
sympathizing at all in the exertions of others. They seem 
to me like billiard balls, which run blindly by one 
another on the green cover, without knowing anything 
of each other ; and which, if they come in contact, only 
recede so much the farther from one another." 

I smiled at this excellent simile. I asked about the 
corresponding persons, and Goethe named them to me, 
with some special remark about each. 

" Jacobi was really a born diplomatist, a handsome man 
of slender figure, elegant and noble mien — who, as an am- 
bassador, would have been quite in his place. As a poet, a 
philosopher, he had deficiencies. 

" His relation to me was peculiar. He loved me person- 
ally, without taking interest in my endeavours, or even ap- 
proving of them : friendship was necessary to bind us 
together. But my connection with Schiller was very 
peculiar, because we found the strongest bond of union in 
our common efforts, and had no need of what is commonly 
called friendship." 

I asked whether Lessing appeared in this correspondence. 
" No," said he, " but Herder and Wieland do. Herder, 



238 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[18*7. 



however, did not enjoy sueh connections ; he stood so high 
that this hollowness could not fail to weary him in the long 
run. Hamann, too, treated these people with marked 
superiority of mind. 

44 Wieland, as nsnal, appears in these letters quite cheer- 
ful and at home. Caring for no opinion in particular, he 
was adroit enough to enter into all. He was like a reed, 
moved hither and thither by the wind of opinion, yet al- 
ways adhering firmly to its root. 

44 My personal relation to Wieland was always very 
pleasant, especially in those earlier days when he belonged 
to me alone. His little tales were written at my sug- 
gestion ; but, when Herder came to "Weimar, Wieland was 
false to me. Herder took him away from me, for this 
man's power of personal attraction was very great." 

The carriage now began to return. We saw towards 
the east many rain-clouds driving one into another. 

44 These clouds," said I, 44 threaten to descend in rain 
every moment. Do you think they could possibly dissipate, 
if the barometer rose ? " 

44 Yes," said he, 44 they would be dispersed from the top 
downwards, and be spun off like a distaff at once. So 
strong is my faith in the barometer. Nay, I always say 
and maintain, that if, in the night of the great inundation 
of Petersburg, the barometer had risen, the waves would 
not have overflowed. 

44 My son believes that the moon influences the weather, 
and you perhaps think the same, and I do not blame you ; 
the moon is so important an orb that we must ascribe 
to it a decided influence on our earth ; but the change 
of the weather, the rise and fall of the barometer, are 
not effected by the changes of the moon ; they are purely 
telluric. 

44 1 compare the earth and her atmosphere to a great 
living being perpetually inhaling and exhaling. If she 
inhale, she draws the atmosphere to her, so that, coming 
near her surface, it is condensed to clouds and rain. This 
state I call water-affirmative (Wasser-lejaliung). Should it 
continue an irregular length of time, the earth would be 
drowned. This the earth does not allow, but exhales again, 
and sends the watery vapours upwards, when they are dis- 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



239 



sipated through the whole space of the higher atmosphere, 
and become so rarified, that not only does the sun penetrate 
them with his brilliancy, but the eternal darkness of infinite 
space is seen through as a fresh blue. This state of the 
atmosphere I call the water-negative (Wasser-vemeinung). 
For as, under the contrary influence, not only water comes 
profusely from above, but also the moisture of the earth 
cannot be dried and dissipated, — so, on the contrary, in this 
state, not only no moisture comes from above, but the damp 
of the earth itself flies upwards ; so that, if this should con- 
tinue an irregular length of time, the earth, even if the 
sun did not shine, would be in danger of drying up." 

Thus spoke Goethe on this important subject, and I 
listened to him with great attention. 

" The thing is very simple, and I abide by what is simple 
and comprehensive, without being disturbed by occasional 
deviations. High barometer, dry weather, east wind ; low 
barometer, wet weather, and west wind ; this is the general 
rule by which I abide. Should wet clouds blow hither now 
and then, when the barometer is high, and the wind east, 
or, if we have a blue sky, with a west wind, this does not 
disturb me, or make me lose my faith in the general 
rule. I merely observe that many collateral influences 
exist, the nature of which we do not yet understand. 

" I will tell you something, by which you may abide 
during your future life. There is in nature an accessible 
and inaccessible. Be careful to discriminate between the 
two, be circumspect, and proceed with reverence. 

" We have already done something, if we only know this 
in a general way, though it is always difficult to see where 
the one begins and the other leaves off. He who does not 
know it torments himself, perhaps his life long, about the 
inaccessible, without ever coming near the truth. But he 
who knows it and is wise, will confine himself to the ac- 
cessible ; and, while he traverses this region in every direc- 
tion, and confirms himself therein, will be able to win 
somewhat even from the inaccessible, though he must at 
last confess that many things can only be approached to a 
certain degree, and that nature has ever something pro- 
blematical in reserve, which man's faculties are insufficient 
to fathom.'* 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



During this discourse we had returned into the town. 
Conversation turned upon unimportant subjects, so that 
those high views could still dwell for a while within me. 

We had returned too early for dinner, and Goethe had 
time to show me a landscape, by Rubens, representing a 
summer's evening. On the left of the foreground, you saw 
field-labourers going homewards ; in the midst of the pic- 
ture, a flock of sheep followed their shepherd to the hamlet; 
a little farther back, on the right, stood a hay-cart, which 
people were busy in loading ; while the horses, not yet put 
in, were grazing near ; afar off, in the meadow and 
thickets, mares were grazing with their foals, and appear- 
ances indicated that they would remain there all night. 
Several villages and a town bordered the bright horizon of 
the picture, in which the ideas of activity and repose were 
expressed in the most graceful manner. 

The whole seemed to me put together with such truth, 
and the ^details painted with such fidelity, that I said, 
Rubens must have copied the picture from nature. 

" By no means," said Goethe, " so perfect a picture has 
never been seen in nature; but we are indebted for its com- 
position to the poetic mind of the painter. Still, the great 
Rubens had such an extraordinary memory, that he carried 
all nature in his head, and she was always at his command, 
in the minutest particulars. Thence comes this truth in 
the whole, and the details, so that we think it is a mere 
copy from nature. No such landscapes are painted now-a- 
days. That way of feeling and seeing nature no longei 
exists. Our painters are wanting in poetry. 

" Then our young talents are left to themselves ; they are 
without living masters, to initiate them into the mysteries 
of art. Something, indeed, mry be learned from the dead, 
but this is rather a catching of details than a penetration 
into the deep thoughts and method of a master." 

Frau and Herr von Goethe came in, and we sat down to 
dinner. The lively topics of the day, such as the theatre, 
balls, and the court, were lightly discussed ; but soon we 
came to more serious matters, and found ourselves 
deeply engaged in conversation on the religious doctrines 
of England. 

" You ought, like me," said Goethe, " to have studied 



J 827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 241 

Church history for fifty years, to understand how all this 
hangs together. On the other hand, it is highly remarkable 
to see with what doctrines the Mahometans commence the 
work of education. As a religious foundation, they confirm 
their youth in the conviction that nothing can happen to 
man, except what was long since decreed by an all-ruling 
divinity. With this they are prepared and satisfied for a 
whole life, and scarce need anything further. 

" I will not inquire what is true or false, useful or per- 
nicious, in this doctrine ; but really something of this faith 
is held in us all, even without being taught. ' The ball on 
which my name is not written, cannot hit me,' says the 
soldier in the battle-field ; and, without such a belief, how 
could he maintain such courage and cheerfulness in the 
most imminent perils ? The Christian doctrine, ' No spar- 
row falls to the ground without the consent of our Father,' 
comes from the same source, intimating that there is a 
Providence, which keeps in its eye the smallest things, 
and without whose will and permission nothing can happen. 

" Then the Mahometans begin their instruction in 
philosophy, with the doctrine that nothing exists of which 
the contrary may not be affirmed. Thus they practise 
the minds of youth, by giving them the task of detecting 
and expressing the opposite of every proposition ; from 
which great adroitness in thinking and speaking is sure to 
arise. 

"Certainly, after the contrary of any proposition has 
been maintained, doubt arises as to which is really true. 
But there is no permanence in doubt ; it incites the mind 
to closer inquiry and experiment, from which, if rightly 
managed, certainty proceeds, and in this alone can man find 
thorough satisfaction. 

" You see that nothing is wanting in this doctrine ; that 
with all our systems, we have got no further ; and that, 
generally speaking, no one can get further." 

"You remind me of the Greeks," said I, "who made use 
of a similar mode of philosophical instruction, as is obvious 
from their tragedy, which, in its course of action, rests 
wholly upon contradiction, not one of the speakers ever 
maintaining any opinion of which the other cannot, with 
equal dexterity, maintaiia the contrary."' 



242 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



" You are perfectly right," said Goethe ; " and that 
doubt is brought in which is awakened in the spectator or 
reader. Thus, at the end, we are brought to certainty 
by fate, which attaches itself to the moral, and espouses 
its cause." 

"We rose from table, and Goethe took me down with 
him into the garden, to continue our conversation. 

"It is remarkable in Lessing," said I, "that in his 
theoretical writings, for instance, in the ' Laocoon,' he 
never leads us directly to results, but always takes us by the 
philosophical way of opinion, counter opinion, and doubt, 
before he lets us arrive at any sort of certainty. "We 
rather see the operation of thinking and seeking, than 
obtain great views and great truths that can excite our 
own powers of thought, and make ourselves productive." 

" You are right," said Goethe ; " Lessing himself is 
reported to have said, that if God would give him truth, he 
would decline the gift, and prefer the labour of seeking it 
for himself. 

" That philosophic system of the Mahometans is a 
good standard, which we can apply to ourselves and 
others, to ascertain the degree of mental progress which 
we have attained. 

" Lessing from his polemical nature, loved best the 
region of doubt and contradiction. Analysis is hi;?, pro- 
vince, and there his fine understanding aided him most 
nobly. You will find me wholly the reverse. I have 
always avoided contradictions, have striven to dispel the 
doubts within me, and have uttered only the results I have 
discovered." 

I asked Goethe which of the new philosophers he 
thought the highest. 

" Kant," said he, " beyond a doubt. He is the one 
whose doctrines still continue to work, and have penetrated 
most deeply into our German civilization. He has influenced 
even you, although you have never read him ; now you 
need him no longer, for what he could give you, you 
possess already. If you wish, by and by, to read something 
of his, I recommend to you his ' Critique on the power of 
Judgment,' in which he has written admirably upon rhetoric, 
tolerably upon poetry, but unsatisfactorily on piastic art." 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



243 



" Has your Excellency ever had any personal connection 
with Kant ? " 

" No," he replied ; " Kant never took any notice of me, 
though from my own nature I went a way like his own. I 
wrote my * Metamorphosis of Plants ' before I knew any- 
thing about Kant ; and yet it is wholly in the spirit of 
his doctrine. The separation of subject from object, and 
further, the opinion that each creature exists for his own 
sake, and that cork trees do not grow merely that we may 
stop our bottles — this Kant shared with me, and I rejoiced 
to meet him on such ground. Afterwards I wrote my 
4 doctrine of experiment,' * which is to be regarded as 
criticism upon subject and object, and a mediation of both. 

" Schiller was always wont to advise me against the 
study of Kant's philosophy. He usually said Kant could 
give me nothing ; but he himself studied Kant with great 
zeal ; and I have studied him too, and not without profit." 

While talking thus, we walked up and down the garden : 
the clouds had been gathering ; and it began to rain, so 
that we were obliged to return to the house, where wo 
continued our conversation for some time. 

(Sup.) Wed., April 18. — Before dinner, I took a ride 
with Goethe some distance along the road to Erfurt. 

We were met by all sorts of vehicles laden with wares 
for the fair at Leipsic ; also a string of horses, amongst 
which were some very fine animals. 

" I cannot help laughing at the aesthetical folks," said 
Goethe, "who torment themselves in endeavouring, by 
some abstract words, to reduce to a conception that inex- 
pressible thing to which we give the name of beauty. 
Beauty is a primeval phenomenon, which itself never makes 
its appearance, but the reflection of which is visible in a 
thousand different utterances of the creative mind, and is 
as various as nature herself." 

" I have often heard it said that nature is always 
beautiful," said I; "that she causes the artists to despair, 
because they are seldom capable of reaching her com- 
pletely." 

* The title of this paper, which appeared in 1793, and is contained 
in Goeihe's works, is " 3)er Versnch als Vermittlcr von Object und 
Subject." — Trans. 

E 2 



244 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[.S2 7 . 



"I know well," returned Groethe, "that nature often 
reveals an unattainable charm ; but I am by no means of 
opinion that she is beautiful in all her aspects. Her inten- 
tions are, indeed, always good ; but not so the conditions 
which are required to make her manifest herself completely. 

" Thus, the oak is a tree which may be very beautiful ; 
but how many favourable circumstances must concur 
before nature can succeed in producing one truly beautiful ! 
If an oak grow in the midst of a forest, encompassed 
with large neighbouring trunks, its tendency will always be 
upwards, towards free air and light ; only small weak 
branches will grow on its sides ; and these will in the 
course of a century decay and fall off. But if it has at 
last succeeded in reaching the free air with its summit, it 
will then rest in its upward tendency, and begin to spread 
itself from its sides and form a crown. But it is by this 
time already past its middle age : its many years of 
upward striving have consumed its freshest powers, and its 
present endeavour to put forth its strength by increasing 
in breadth will not now have its proper results. When 
full grown, it will be high, strong and slender stemmed, 
but still without such a proportion between its crown and 
its stem as would render it beautiful. 

" Again ; if the oak grow in a moist, marshy place, and 
the earth is too nourishing, it will, with proper space, pre- 
maturely shoot forth many branches and twigs on all sides : 
but it will still want the opposing, retarding influences ; it 
will not show itself gnarled, stubborn, and indented, and 
seen from a distance, it will have the appearance of a weak 
tree of the lime species ; and it will not be beautiful — at 
least, not as an oak. 

" If, lastly, it grow upon mountainous slopes, upon poor, 
stony soil, it will become excessively gnarled and knotty ; 
but it will lack free development : it will become prema- 
turely stunted, and will never attain such perfection that 
one can say of it, 4 there is in that oak something which 
creates astonishment.' " 

I rejoiced at these words. " I saw very beautiful oaks," 
said' I, i{ when, some years ago, I made short tours from 
Gottingen into the valley of the Weser. I found them par- 
ticularly magnificent in the neighbourhood of Hoxter." 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



245 



" A sandy soil, or one mixed with sand," continued 
Goethe, " where the oak is able to spread its strong roots 
in every direction, appears to be most favourable ; and then 
it needs a situation where it has the necessary space to feel 
the effects on all sides of light, sun, rain, and wind. If it 
grows up snugly sheltered from wind and weather, it 
becomes nothing ; but a century's struggle with the 
elements makes it strong and powerful, so that, at its full 
growth, its presence inspires us with astonishment and 
admiration." 

" Cannot one, from these remarks of yours," returned I, 
" draw a conclusion and say, * a creature is beautiful when 
it has attained the summit of its natural development ?' " 

" Certainly," returned Goethe ; " but still one must first 
explain what one means by the summit of its natural 
development." 

" I would by that," returned I, " signify the period of 
growth in which the character peculiar to any creature 
appears perfectly impressed on it." 

" In that sense," said Goethe, " there would be nothing 
to object, especially if we add that, for such a perfect 
development of character, it is likewise requisite that the 
build of the different members of a creature should be 
conformable to its natural destination. 

" In that case, a marriageable girl, whose natural destiny 
is to bear and suckle children, will not be beautiful without 
the proper breadth of the pelvis and the necessary fulness 
of the breasts. Still, an excess in these respects would not 
be beautiful, for that would go beyond conformity to an end. 

" On this account, we might call some of the saddle 
horses which we met a little time ago beautiful, even 
according to the fitness of their build. It is not merely 
the elegance, lightness, and gracefulness of their move- 
ments, but something more, of which a good horseman 
and judge of horses alone can speak, and of which we 
others merely receive the general impression." 

" Might we not, on the other hand," said I, " call a cart- 
horse beautiful, like those strong specimens which we 
met a little time ago drawing the waggons of the Brabant 
carriers ? " 

" Certainly," said Goethe ; " and why not ? A painter 



246 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



would probably find a more varied display of all kinds of 
beauties in the strongly-marked character and powerful 
development of bone, sinew, and muscle, in such an 
animal, than in the softer and more equal character of an 
elegant saddle-horse." 

" The main point is," continued Goethe, "that the race 
is pure, and that man has not applied his mutilating hand. 
A horse with his mane and tail cut, a hound with cropped 
ears, a tree from which the strongest branches have been 
lopped and the rest cut into a spherical form, and, above 
all, a young girl whose youthful form has been spoiled 
and deformed by stays, are things from which good taste 
revolts, and which merely occupy a place in the Philistine's 
catechism of beauty." 

During this and similar conversations, we had returned. 
We walked about a little in the garden of the house before 
dinner. The weather was very beautiful ; the spring sun 
had begun to grow powerful, and to bring out all sorts of 
leaves and blossoms on bushes and hedges. Goethe was 
full of thought and hopes of a delightful summer. 

At dinner we were very cheerful. Young Goethe had 
read his father's " Helena," and spoke upon it with much 
judgment and natural intelligence. He showed decided 
delight at the part conceived in the antique spirit, while 
we could see that he had not fully entered into the operatic, 
romantic half. 

" You are right," said Goethe ; " it is something peculiar. 
One cannot say that the rational is always beautiful ; but the 
beautiful is always rational, or at least, ought to be so. The 
antique part pleases you because it is comprehensible, 
because you can take a survey of the details, and approach 
my reason with your own. In the second half, all sorts 
of understanding and reason are likewise employed and 
expended ; but it is difficult, and requires some study, 
before the reader can approach the meaning, and with his 
own reason discover the reason of the author." 

Goethe then spoke with much praise and acknowledg- 
ment of the poems of Madame Tastu, with which he had 
been lately occupied. 

When the rest had departed, and I also prepared to go, 
he begged of me to remain a little longer. He ordered a 



i82 7 .: 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



247 



portfolio, with engravings and etchings by Dutch masters, 
to be brought in. 

"I will treat yon with something good, by way of 
dessert," said he. With these words, he placed before me 
a landscape by Rubens. 

" You have," said he, " already seen this picture ; but one 
cannot look often enough at anything really excellent ; — 
besides, there is something very particular attached to this. 
Will you tell me what you see ? " 

" I begin from the distance," said I. " I see in the 
remotest background a very clear sky, as if after sunset. 
Then, still in the extreme distance, a village and a town, 
in the light of evening. In the middle of the picture 
there is a road, along which a flock of sheep is hastening to 
the village. At the right hand of the picture are several 
haystacks, and a waggon which appears well laden. Un- 
harnessed * horses are grazing near. On one side, among 
the bushes, are several mares with their foals, which 
appear as if they were going to remain out of doors all 
night. Then, nearer to the foreground, there is a group of 
large trees ; and lastly, quite in the foreground to the left, 
there are various labourers returning homewards." 

" Good," said Goethe, " that is apparently all. But the 
principal point is still wanting. All these things, which we 
see represented, the flock of sheep, the waggon with hay, the 
horses, the returning labourers, — on which side are they 
lighted ? " 

" They receive light," said I, "from the side turned to us, 
and the shadow is thrown into the picture. The returning 
labourers in the foreground are especially in the light, 
which produces an excellent effect." 

" But how has Rubens produced this beautiful effect ? " 

*' By making these light figures appear on a dark ground," 
said I. 

" But this dark ground," said Goethe, " whence does it 
arise ? " 

"It is the powerful shadow," said I, " thrown by the 

* The original says "harnessed" (angeschirrt), but as this is 
evidently the same engraving as the one mentioned at p. 240, where 
the horses are described as " unharnessed" (abgespannt), I assume 
that " angeschirrt " is a misprint for " abgeschirrt." — Trans. 



248 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



group of trees towards tlie figures. But how ? " con- 
tinued I, with surprise, " the figures cast their shadows into 
the picture ; the group of trees, on the contrary, cast their's 
towards the spectator. We have, thus, light from two 
different sides, which is quite contrary to Nature." 

" That is the point," returned Goethe, with a smile. " It 
is by this that Rubens proves himself great, and shows to 
the world that he, with a free spirit, stands above Nature, 
and treats her conformably to his high purposes. The 
double light is certainly a violent expedient, and you 
certainly say that it is contrary to nature. But if it is 
contrary to nature, I still say it is higher than nature ; I say 
it is the bold stroke of the master, by which he, in a genial 
manner, proclaims to the world that art is not entirely 
subject to natural necessities, but has laws of its own. 

" The artist," continued Groethe, " must, indeed, in his 
details faithfully and reverently copy nature ; he must not, 
arbitrarily, change the structure of the bones, or the 
position of the muscles and sinews of an animal, so that the 
peculiar character is destroyed. This would be annihilating 
nature. But in the higher regions of artistical production, 
by which a picture really becomes a picture, he has freer 
play, and here he may have recourse to fictions, as Rubens 
has done with the double hght in this landscape. 

" The artist has a twofold relation to nature ; he is at 
once her master and her slave. He is her slave, inasmuch 
as he must work with earthly things, in order to be under- 
stood ; but he is her master, inasmuch as he subjects these 
earthly means to his higher intentions, and renders them 
subservient. 

" The artist would speak to the world through an 
entirety ; however, he does not find this entirety in nature ; 
but it is the fruit of his own mind, or, if you like it, of the 
aspiration of a fructifying divine breath. 

"If we observe this landscape by Rubens only slightly 
everything appears as natural to us as if it had been copied 
exactly from nature. But this is not the case. So beau- 
tiful a picture has never been seen in nature, any more than 
a landscape by Poussin or Claude Lorraine, which appears 
very natural to us, but which we vainly seek in the actual 
world." 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



249 



"Are there not," said I, " bold strokes of artistic fiction 
similar to this double light of Rubens, to be fonnd in 
literature ? " 

" We need not go far," said Goethe, after some reflection ; 
" I could show you a dozen of them in Shakspeare. Only 
take Macbeth. "When the lady would animate her husband 
to the deed, she says — 

' I have given suck,' &c. 
Whether this be true or not does not appear ; but the lady 
says it, and she must say it, in order to give emphasis to 
her speech. But in the course of the piece, when Macduff 
hears of the account of the destruction of his family, he 
exclaims in wild rage — 

' He has no children ! ' 
These words of Macduff contradict those of Lady Macbeth ; 
but this does not trouble Shakspeare. The grand point 
with him is the force of each speech ; and as the lady, in 
order to give the highest emphasis to her words, must say 
'I have given suck,' so, for the same purpose, Macduff 
must say ' he has no children.' 

" Generally," continued Goethe, " we must not judge too 
exactly and narrowly of the pencil touches of a painter, or 
the words of a poet ; we should rather contemplate and 
enjoy a work of art that has been produced in a bold and 
free spirit, and if possible with the same spirit. 

" Thus it would be foolish, if, from the words of 
Macbeth — • 

' Bring forth men children only ! ' &c, 
the conclusions were drawn that the lady was a young 
creature who had not yet borne any children. And it 
would be equally foolish if we were to go still further, and 
say that the lady must be represented on the stage as a 
very youthful person. 

" Shakspeare by no means makes Macbeth say these 
words to show the youth of the lady ; but these words, like 
those of Lady Macbeth and Macduff, which I quoted just 
now, are merely introduced for rhetorical purposes, and 
prove nothing more than that the poet always makes his 
character say whatever is proper, effective, and good in 
each particular place, without troubling himself to calculate 



250 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



whether these words may, perhaps, fall into apparent con- 
tradiction with some other passage. 

" Shakspeare, in writing his pieces, conld hardly have 
thought that they would appear in print, so as to be told 
over, and compared one with another ; he had rather the 
stage in view when he wrote ; he regarded his plays as a 
lively and moving scene, that would pass rapidly before 
the eyes and ears upon the stage, not as one that was to be 
held firmly, and carped at in detail. Hence, his only point 
was to be effective and significant for the moment." 

(Sup.) Tues., April 24. — August Wilhelm von Schlegel 
is here. Before dinner, Goethe took a drive with him 
round the Webicht, and this evening gave a great tea-party 
in honour of him, at which Schlegel' s fellow-traveller, 
Doctor Lassen, was present. All in Weimar, of any rank 
and name, were invited, so that the press in Goethe's room 
was very great. Herr von Schlegel was quite surrounded 
by ladies, to whom he showed thin rolled-up strips with 
Indian idols, as well as the whole text of two great Indian 
poems, of which no one but himself and Doctor Lassen 
probably understood anything. Schlegel was dressed with 
extreme neatness, and had an extremely youthful and 
blooming appearance, so that some of the assembled guests 
were pleased to maintain that he appeared not unskilled in 
the use of cosmetic means. 

Goethe drew me to the window. " Now, how does he 
please you ? " " Not better than I expected," returned I. 
" He is truly, in many respects, no true man," continued 
Goethe; "but still, one must bear with him a little, on 
account of his extensive knowledge and great deserts." 

(Sup.) Wed., April 25. — Dined with Goethe and Dr. 
Lassen. Schlegel had once more gone to dine at the court. 
Here Lassen displayed great knowledge of Indian poetry, 
which seemed highly acceptable to Goethe, as he could 
thus complete his own very deficient knowledge of these 
things. 

In the evening I again spent a few moments with 
Goethe. He related to me that Schlegel had been with 
him at twilight, and that they had carried on a very im- 
portant conversation on historical and literary subjects, 
which had been very instructive to him. " Only," said he, 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



251 



"one must not expect grapes from thorns, or figs from 
thistles ; for the rest, all is very excellent." 

(Sup.) Thurs., May 3. — The highly successful transla- 
tion of Goethe's dramatic works, by Stapf er, was noticed by 
Monsieur J. J. Ampere in the "Parisian Globe" of last 
year, in a manner no less excellent, and this affected Goethe 
so agreeably that he very often recurred to it, and ex- 
pressed his great obligations to it. 

" Ampere's point of view is a very high one," said he. 
"When German critics on similar occasions start from 
•ohilosophy, and in the consideration and discussion of a 
poetical production proceed in a manner that what they 
intend as an elucidation is only intelligible to philosophers 
of their own school, while for other people it is far more 
obscure than the work upon which they intended to throw 
a light, M. Ampere, on the contrary, shows himself quite 
practical and popular. Like one who knows his profession 
thoroughly, he shows the relation between the production 
and the producer, and judges the different poetical produc- 
tions as different fruits of different epochs of the poet's life. 

" He has studied most profoundly the changing course of 
;ny earthly career, and of the condition of my mind, and 
has had the faculty of seeing what I have not expressed, 
and what, so to speak, could only be read between the lines. 
How truly has he remarked that, during the first ten years 
of my official and court life at Weima-r, I scarcely did any- 
thing ; that despair drove me to Italy ; and that I there, 
with new delight in producing, seized upon the history of 
Tasso, in order to free myself, by the treatment of this 
agreeable subject, from the painful and troublesome impres- 
sions and recollections of my life at Weimar. He therefore 
very happily calls Tasso an elevated Werther. 

" Then, concerning Faust, his remarks are no less clever, 
since he not only notes, as part of myself, the gloomy, dis- 
contented striving of the principal character, but also the 
scorn and the bitter irony of Mephistophiles." 

In this, and a similar spirit of acknowledgment, Goethe 
often spoke of M. Ampere. We took a decided interest in 
him ; we endeavoured to picture to ourselves his personal 
appearance, and, if we could not succeed in this, we at 
least agreed that he must be a man of middle age to under- 



252 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



stand the reciprocal action of life and poetry on each other. 
We were, therefore, extremely surprised when M. Ampere 
arrived in Weimar a few days ago, and proved to be a 
lively youth, some twenty years old ; and we were no less 
surprised when, in the course of further intercourse, he 
told us that the whole of the contributors to the " Globe," 
whose wisdom, moderation, and high degree of cultivation 
we had often admired, were only young people like himself. 

"I can well comprehend,'* said I, "that a person may be 
young and may still produce something of importance — like 
Merimee, for instance, who wrote excellent pieces in his 
twentieth year ; but that any one at so early an age should 
have at his command such a comprehensive view, and such 
deep insight, as to attain such mature judgment as the 
gentlemen of the ' Globe,' is to me something entirely new." 

"To you, in your Heath," * returned Goethe, "it has not 
been so easy ; and we others also, in Central Germany, have 
been forced to buy our little wisdom dearly enough. Then 
we all lead a very isolated miserable sort of life! From 
the people, properly so called, we derive very little culture. 
Our talents and men of brains are scattered over the whole 
of Germany. One is in Vienna, another in Berlin, another 
in Konigsberg, another in Bonn or Diisseldorf — all about a 
hundred miles apart from each other, so that personal con- 
tact and personal exchange of thought may be considered 
as rarities. I feel what this must be, when such men as 
Alexander von Humboldt come here, and in one single day 
lead me nearer to what I am seeking, and what I require 
to know, than I should have done for years in my own 
solitary way. 

"But now conceive a city like Paris, where the highest 
talents of a great kingdom are all assembled in a single spot, 
and by daily intercourse, strife, and emulation, mutually 
instruct and advance each other ; where the best works, both 
of nature and art, from all the kingdoms of the earth, are 
open to daily inspection ; — conceive this metropolis of the 
world, I say, where every walk over a bridge or across a 
square recalls some mighty past, and where some historical 
event is connected with every corner of a street. In ad- 

* This doubtless refers to the Heath country in which Eckermann 
was born. — Trans. 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



253 



dition to all this, conceive not the Paris of a dull, spiritless 
time, but the Paris of the nineteenth century, in which, 
during three generations, such men as Moliere, Voltaire, 
Diderot, and the like, have kept up such a current of 
intellect as cannot be found twice in a single spot on the 
whole world, and you will comprehend that a man of talent 
like Ampere, who has grown up amid such abundance, can 
easily be something in his four-and-twentieth year. 

"You said just now," said Goethe, "that you could well 
understand how any one in his twentieth year could write 
pieces as good as those of Merimee. I have nothing to 
oppose to this ; and I am, on the whole, quite of your 
opinion that good productiveness is easier than good judg- 
ment in a youthful man. But in Germany, one had better 
not, when so young as Merimee, attempt to produce any- 
thing so mature as he has done in his pieces of ' Clara 
Gazul.' It is true, Schiller was very young when he wrote 
his 'Robbers,' his 'Love and Intrigue,' his 'Piesco;' but, 
to speak the truth, all three pieces are rather the utterances 
of an extraordinary talent than signs of mature cultivation 
in the author. This, however, is not Schiller's fault, but 
rather the result of the state of culture of his nation, and 
the great difficulty which we all experience in assisting 
ourselves on our solitary way. 

" On the other hand, take up Beranger. He is the son 
of poor parents, the descendant of a poor tailor; at one 
time a poor printer's apprentice, then placed in some oflice 
Avith a small salary : he has never been to a classical school 
or university; and yet his songs are so full of mature 
cultivation, so full of wit and the most refined irony, and 
there is such artistic perfection and masterly handling of 
the language, that he is the admiration, not only of France, 
but of all civilized Europe. 

" But imagine this same Beranger — instead of being born 
in Paris, and brought up in this metropolis of the world — 
the son of a poor tailor in Jena or Weimar, and let him 
commence his career, in an equally miserable manner, in 
such small places, ask yourself what fruit would have been 
produced by this same tree grown in such a soil and in such 
an atmosphere. 

" Therefore, my good friend, I repeat that, if a talent is 



254 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



to be speedily and happily developed, the great point is 
that a great deal of intellect and sound culture should be 
current in a nation. 

"We admire the tragedies of the ancient Greeks; but, 
to take a correct view of the case, we ought rather to 
admire the period and the nation in which their production 
was possible than the individual authors ; for though these 
pieces differ a little from each other, and though one of 
these poets appears somewhat greater and more finished 
than the other, still, taking all things together, only one 
decided character runs through the whole. 

"This is the character of grandeur, fitness, soundness, 
human perfection, elevated wisdom, sublime thought, pure, 
strong intuition, and whatever other qualities one might 
enumerate. But when we find all these qualities, not only 
in the dramatic works that have come down to us, but also 
in lyrical and epic works, in the philosophers, the orators, 
and the historians, and in an equally high degree in the 
works of plastic art that have come down to us, we must 
feel convinced that such qualities did not merely belong to 
individuals, but were the current property of the nation 
and the whole period. 

"Now, take up Burns. How is he great, except through 
the circumstance that the whole songs of his predecessors 
lived in the mouth of the people, — that they were, so to 
speak, sung at his cradle ; that, as a boy, he grew up 
amongst them, and the high excellence of these models so 
pervaded him that he had therein a living basis on which 
he could proceed further? Again, why is he great, but 
from this, that his own songs at once found susceptible ears 
amongst his compatriots ; that, sung by reapers and sheaf- 
binders, they at once greeted him in the field ; and that his 
boon-companions sang them to welcome him at the ale- 
house ? Something was certainly to be done in this way. 

" On the other hand, what a pitiful figure is made by us 
Germans ! Of our old songs — no less important than those 
of Scotland — how many lived among the people in the days 
of my youth? Herder and his successors first began to 
collect them and rescue them from oblivion; then they 
were at least printed in the libraries. Then, more lately, 
what songs have not Burger and Voss composed! Who 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



255 



can say that they are more insignificant or less popular than 
those of the excellent Burns ? but which of them so lives 
among us that it greets us from the mouth of the people ? 
— they are written and printed, and they remain in the 
libraries, quite in accordance with the general fate of 
German poets. Of my own songs, how many live ? Per- 
haps one or another of them may be sung by a pretty girl 
to the piano ; but among the people, properly so called, they 
have no sound. "With what sensations must I remember 
the time when passages from Tasso were sung to me by 
Italian fishermen ! 

" We Germans are of yesterday. We have indeed been 
properly cultivated for a century ; but a few centuries more 
must still elapse before so much mind and elevated culture 
will become universal amongst our people that they will 
appreciate beauty like the Greeks, that they will be inspired 
by a beautiful song, and that it will be said of them ' it is 
long since they were barbarians.' " 

(Sujj.) Fri., May 4. — A grand dinner at Goethe's in 
honour of Ampere and his friend Stapfer. The conversa- 
tion was loud, cheerful, and varied. Ampere told Goethe 
a great deal about Merimee, Alfred de Vigny, and other 
talents of importance. A great deal also was said about 
Beranger, whose inimitable songs are daily in Goethe's 
thoughts. There was a discussion as to whether Beranger's 
cheerful amatory songs or his political ones merited the 
preference ; whereupon Goethe expressed his opinion that, 
in general, a purely poetical subject is as superior to a 
political one as the pure everlasting truth of nature is to 
party spirit. 

" However," continued he, " Beranger has, in his 
political poems, shown himself the benefactor of his nation. 
After the invasion of the allies, the French found in him 
the best organ for their suppressed feelings. He directed 
their attention by various recollections to the glory of their 
arms under the Emperor, whose memory still lives in every 
cottage, and whose great qualities the poet loved, without 
desiring a continuance of his despotic sway. Now, under 
the Bourbons, he does not seem too comfortable. They are, 
indeed, a degenerate race ; and the Frenchman of the pre- 
sent day desires great qualities upon the throne, although 



256 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[.827. 



he likes to take part in the government, and put in his own 
word." 

After dinner the company dispersed in the garden, and 
Goethe beckoned me to take a drive ronnd the wood, on the 
road to Tiefnrt. 

Whilst in the carriage he was very pleasant and affable. 
He was glad that he had formed so pleasant an intimacy 
with Ampere, promising himself, as a result, the fairest 
consequences with respect to the acknowledgment and 
diffusion of German literature in France. 

" Ampere," continued he, " stands indeed so high in 
culture that the national prejudices, apprehensions, and 
narrow-mindedness of many of his countrymen lie far be- 
hind him ; and in mind he is far more a citizen of the 
world than a citizen of Paris. But I see a time coming 
when there will be thousands in France who think like 
him." 

(Sup.) Sun., May 6. — A second dinner party at Goethe's, 
to which the same people came as the day before yesterday. 
Much was said about " Helena " and " Tasso." Goethe re- 
lated to us that in the year 1797, he had formed the plan 
of treating the tradition concerning Tell as an epic poem 
in hexameters. 

"In the same year," said he, "I visited the small cantons, 
and the lake of the four cantons, and this charming, magni- 
ficent, grand nature made once more such an impres- 
sion upon me, that it induced me to represent in a poem 
the variety and richness of so incomparable a landscape. 
But, in order to throw more charm, interest, and life into 
my representation, I considered it good to people this 
3iighly- striking spot with equally striking human figures, 
for which purpose the tradition concerning Tell appeared to 
me admirably fitted. 

" I pictured Tell to myself as a heroic man, possessed of 
native strength, but contented with himself, and in a state 
of childish unconsciousness. He traverses the canton as a 
carrier, and is everywhere known and beloved, everywhere 
ready with his assistance. He peacefully follows his calling, 
providing for his wife and child, and not troubling himself 
who is lord or who is serf. 

" Gessler, on the contrary, I pictured to myself as a 



i82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE, 



257 



tyrant ; but as one of the comfortable sort who occasionally 
does good when it suits hhn, and occasionally harm when it 
suits him, and to whom the people, with its weal and woe, 
is as totally indifferent as if it did not exist. 

"The higher and better qualities of human nature, on 
the contrary, the love of native soil, the feeling of freedom 
and security under the protection of the laws of the 
country, the feeling, moreover, of the disgrace of being 
subjugated, and occasionally ill-treated, by a foreign de- 
bauchee, and lastly, strength of mind matured to a deter- 
mination to throw off so obnoxious a yoke, — all these great 
and good qualities I had shared between the well-known 
noble-minded men, Walter Fiirst, Stauffaeher, Winkelried, 
and others ; and these were my proper heroes, my higher 
powers, acting with consciousness, whilst Tell and Gressler, 
though occasionally brought into action, were, upon the 
whole, rather figures of a passive nature. 

" I was quite full of this beautiful subject, and was 
already humming my hexameters. I saw the lake in the 
quiet moonlight, illuminated mists in the depths of the 
mountains. I then saw it in the light of the loveliest 
morning sun — a rejoicing and a life in wood and meadow. 
Then I described a storm — a thunder-storm, which swept 
from the hollows over the lake. Neither was there any 
lack of the stillness of night, nor of secret meetings ap- 
proached by bridges. 

" I related all this to Schiller, in whose soul my land- 
scapes and my acting figures formed themselves into a 
drama. And as I had other things to do, and the execution 
of my design was deferred more and more, I gave up my 
subject entirely to Schiller, who thereupon wrote his admir- 
able play." 

We were pleased with this communication, which was 
interesting to us all. I remarked that it appeared to me as 
if the splendid description of sunrise, in the first scene of 
the second act of " Faust," written in terza rima, was 
founded upon the recalled impressions of the lake of the 
four cantons. 

" I will not deny," said Goethe, " that these contempla- 
tions proceed from that source ; nay, without the fresh im- 
pressions of those wonderful scenes, I could never have 

s 



258 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



conceived the subject of that terza rima. But that is all 
which I have coined from the gold of my Tell-localities. 
The rest 1 left to Schiller, who, as we know, made the most 
beautiful use of it." 

The conversation now turned upon " Tasso," and the idea 
which Goethe had endeavoured to represent by it. 

"Idea!" said Goethe, "as if I knew nothing about it. 
I had the life of Tasso, I had my own life ; and whilst I 
brought together two odd figures with their peculiarities, 
the image of Tasso arose in my mind, to which I opposed, 
as a prosaic contrast, that of Antonio, for whom also I 
did not lack models. The further particulars of court life 
and love affairs were at Weimar as they were in Ferrara ; 
and I can truly say of my production, it is bone of my bone, 
and flesh of my flesh. 

" The Germans are, certainly, strange people. By their 
deep thoughts and ideas, which they seek in everything and 
fix upon everything, they make life much more burdensome 
than is necessary. Only have the courage to give yourself 
up to your impressions, allow yourself to be delighted, 
moved, elevated, nay, instructed and inspired for something 
great ; but do not imagine all is vanity, if it is not abstract 
thought and idea. 

" Then they come and ask, * What idea I meant to em- 
body in my Faust ? ' as if I knew myself and could inform 
them. From heaven, through the world, to hell, would indeed 
be something ; but this is no idea, only a course of action. 
And further, that the devil loses the wager, and that a man, 
continually struggling from difficult errors towards some- 
thing better, should be redeemed, is an effective, and to 
many, a good enlightening thought ; but it is no idea which 
lies at the foundation of the whole, and of every individual 
scene. It would have been a fine thing, indeed, if I had 
strung so rich, varied, and highly diversified a life as I have 
brought to view in Faust upon the slender string of one 
pervading idea. 

"It was, in short," continued Goethe, "not in my line, 
as a poet, to strive to embody anything abstract. I received 
in my mind impressions, and those of a sensual, animated, 
charming, varied, hundredfold kind, just as a lively imagi- 
nation presented them ; and I had, as a poet, nothing more 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 259 

to do than artistically to round off and elaborate such views 
and impressions, and by means of a lively representation 
so to bring tliem forward that others might receive the 
same impression in hearing or reading my representation of 
them. 

" If I still wished, as a poet, to represent any idea, I 
would do it in short poems, where a decided nnity could 
prevail, and where a complete survey would be easy, as, for 
instance, in the Metamorphosis of Animals, that of the 
plants, the poem 'Bequest' (Vermachtniss), and many 
others. The only production of greater extent, in which I 
am conscious of having laboured to set forth a pervading 
idea, is probably my ' Wahlverwandtschaften.' This novel 
has thus become comprehensible to the understanding ; but 
I will not say that it is therefore better. I am rather of 
the opinion, that the more incommensurable, and the more 
incomprehensible to the understanding, a poetic production 
is, so much the better it is." 

(Sup.) Tues., May 15. — Herr von Holtey, from Paris, has 
been here for some time, and has been very well received 
everywhere, on account of his person and talent. A very 
friendly intimacy has also been formed between him and 
Goethe, and his family. 

Goethe has for some days been drawn into his garden, 
where he is very happy with his quiet activity. I called 
upon him there to-day, with Herr von Holtey and Count 
Schulenburg, the former of whom took his leave, in order 
to go to Berlin with Ampere. 

IVed., June 20. — The family table was covered for five ; 
the rooms were vacant and cool, which was very pleasant, 
considering the great heat. I went into the spacious room 
next the dining-hall, where are the worked carpet and the 
colossal bust of Juno. 

After I had walked up and down alone for a short time, 
Goethe soon came in from his work-room, and greeted me 
in his cordial manner. He seated himself on a chair by the 
window. " Take a chair too," said he, " and sit down by 
me ; we will talk a little before the others arrive. I am 
glad that you have become acquainted with Count Stern- 
berg at my house ; he has departed, and I am now once 
more in my wonted state of activity and repose." 

s 2 



260 



CONVEKSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



" The present appearance and manner of the Count, " 
said I, "seemed to me very remarkable, as well as his 
great attainments. Whatever the conversation turned 
on, he was always at home, and talked about everything* 
with the greatest ease, though, with profundity and cir- 
cumspection." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "he is a highly remarkable man, 
and his influence and connections in Germany are very 
extensive. As a botanist, he is known throughout Europe 
by his ' Flora Subterranea,' and he also stands high as a 
mineralogist. Do you know his history ? " 

"No," said I, "but I should like to hear something 
about him. I saw him as a Count and a man of the world, 
and also a person profoundly versed in various branches of 
science. This is a riddle I should like to see solved." 

Goethe told me that the Count in his youth had been des- 
tined for the priesthood, and had commenced his studies at 
Rome ; but that afterwards, when Austria had withdrawn 
certain favours, he had gone to Naples. Goethe then pro- 
ceeded in the most profound and interesting manner, to set 
forth a remarkable life, which would have adorned the 
" Wanderjahre," but which I do not feel I can repeat here. 
I was delighted to listen to him and thanked him with all 
my soul. The conversation now turned upon the Bohemian 
schools, and their great advantages, especially for a thorough 
aesthetic culture. 

Frau von Goethe, young Goethe, and Fraulein Ulrica now 
came in, and we sat down to table. The conversation was 
gay and varied, the pietists of some cities in Northern 
Germany being a subject to which we often reverted. It 
was remarked that these pietistical separations had de- 
stroyed the harmony of whole families. 

I was able to give an instance of the kind, having nearly 
lost an excellent friend because he could not convert me to 
his opinions. He, as I stated, was thoroughly convinced 
that good works and one's own merits are of no avail, and 
that man can only win favour with the divinity by the 
grace of Christ. 

"A female friend," observed Frau von Goethe, "said 
something of the sort to me; but even now I scarcely know 
what is meant by grace and what by good works." 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



261 



" According to the present course of the world, in con- 
versing on all such topics," said Goethe, " there is nothing 
but a medley ; and perhaps none of you know whence it 
conies. I will tell you. The doctrine of good works — 
namely, that man, by good actions, legacies, and beneficent 
institutions, can avoid the penalty of sin, and rise in the 
favour of God — is Catholic. But the reformers, out of 
opposition, rejected this doctrine, and declared, in lieu of it, 
that man must seek solely to recognize the merits of Christ, 
and become a partaker of his grace ; which indeed leads to 
good works. But, nowadays, all this is mingled together, 
and nobody knows whence a thing comes." 

I remarked, more in thought than openly, that difference 
of opinion in religious matters had always sown dissension 
among men, and made them enemies ; nay, that the first 
murder had been caused by a difference in the mode of 
worshipping God. I said that I had lately been reading 
Byron's " Cain," and had been particularly struck by the 
third act, and the manner in which the murder is brought 
about. 

" It is indeed admirable," said Goethe. " Its beauty is 
such as we shall not see a second time in the world." 

" Cain," said I, "was at first prohibited in England; but 
now everybody reads it, and young English travellers 
usually carry a complete Byron with them." 

" It was folly," said Goethe ; " for, in fact, there is 
nothing in the whole of Cain which is not taught by the 
English bishops themselves." 

The Chancellor was announced. He came in and sat 
down with us at table. Goethe's grandchildren, Walter 
and Wolfgang, also came in, jumping on© after the other. 
Wolf pressed close to the Chancellor. 

" Bring your album," said Goethe, " and show the Chan- 
cellor your princess, and what Count Sternberg wrote for 
you." 

Wolf sprang up and brought the book. The Chancellor 
looked at the portrait of the princess, with the verses 
annexed by Goethe. Turning over the leaves, he came to 
Zelter's inscription, and read aloud, Leme geliorclien 
(" Learn to obey "). 

" Those are the only rational words in the whole book," 



262 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[.827. 



said Goethe, laughing ; "as indeed, Zelter is always ma- 
jestic and to the point. I am now looking over his letters 
with Eiemer ; and they contain invaluable things. Those 
letters which he has written me on his travels are especially 
of worth ; for he has, as a sound architect and musician, the 
advantage that he can never want interesting subjects for 
criticism. As soon as he enters a city, the buildings stand 
before him, and tell him their merits and their faults. 

" Then the musical societies [receive him at once, and 
show themselves to the master with their virtues and their 
defects. If a short-hand writer could but have recorded 
his conversations with his musical scholars, we should pos- 
sess something quite unique in its way. In such matters 
is Zelter great and genial, and always hits the nail on the 
head." 

Thurs., July 5. — Towards evening, I met Goethe in the 
park, returning from a ride. As he passed he beckoned to me 
to come and see him. I went immediately to his house, 
where I found Coudray. Goethe alighted, and we went up 
the steps with him. We sat down to the round table in the 
so-called Juno-room, and had not talked long before the Chan- 
cellor came in and joined us. The conversation turned on 
political subjects — Wellington's embassy to St. Petersburg, 
and its probable consequences, Capo d'Istria, the delayed 
liberation of Greece, the restriction upon the Turks to Con- 
stantinople, and the like. 

We talked, too, of Napoleon's times, especially about the 
Duke d'Enghein, whose incautious revolutionary conduct 
was much discussed. 

We then came to more pacific topics, and t Wieland's 
tomb at Osmannstedt was a fruitful subject of discourse. 
Coudray told us that he was engaged with an iron en- 
closure of the tomb. He gave us a clear notion of his 
intention by drawing the form of the iron-railing on a piece 
of paper. 

When the Chancellor and Coudray departed, Goethe 
asked me to stay with him a little while. " For one who, 
like me, lives through ages," said he, " it always seems odd 
when I hear about statues and monuments. I can never 
think of a statue erected in honour of a distinguished man 
without already seeing it cast down and trampled upon by 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



263 



future warriors. Already I see Coudray's iron-railing 
about Wieland's grave forged into horse-shoes, and shining 
under the feet of future cavalry ; and I may even say that 
I have witnessed such a case at Frankfort. Wieland's 
grave is, besides, much too near the lira ; the stream in less 
than a hundred years will have so worn the shore by its 
sudden turn, that it will have reached the body." 

"We had some good-humoured jests about the terrible in- 
constancy of earthly things, and then, returning to Coud- 
ray's drawing, were delighted with the delicate and strong 
strokes of the English pencils, which are so obedient 
to the draughtsman, that the thought is conveyed im- 
mediately to the paper, without the slightest loss. This 
led the conversation to drawing, and Goethe showed me a 
fine one, by an Italian master, representing the boy Jesus 
in the temple with the doctors ; he then showed me an en- 
graving after the finished picture on this subject ; and 
many remarks were made, all in favour of drawings. 

" I have lately been so fortunate," said he, "as to buy, 
at a reasonable rate, many excellent drawings by celebrated 
masters. Such drawings are invaluable, not only because 
they give, in its purity, the mental intention of the artist, 
but because they bring immediately before us the mood of 
his mind at the moment of creation. In every stroke of 
this drawing of the boy Jesus in the temple, we perceive 
the great clearness, and quiet, serene resolution, in the 
mind of the artist ; and this beneficial mood is extended to 
us while we contemplate the work. The arts of painting 
and sculpture have, moreover, the great advantage that 
they are purely objective, and attract us without violently 
exciting our feelings. Such a work either speaks to us not 
at all, or in a very decided manner. A poem, on the other 
hand, makes a far more vague impression, exciting in each 
hearer different emotions, according to his nature and 
capacity." 

" I have," said 1, " been lately reading Smollett's excel- 
lent novel of 'Roderick Random.' It gave me almost the 
same impression as a good drawing. It is a direct re- 
presentation of the subject, without a trace of a leaning 
towards the sentimental ; actual life stands before us as it 
is, often repulsive and detestable enough, yet, as a whole, 



264 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[■8*7- 



giving a pleasant impression on account of the decided 
reality." 

" I have often heard the praises of ' Roderick Random,' 
and believe what you say of it, but have never read it. Do 
you know Johnson's ' Rasselas ? ' Just read it, and tell me 
what you think of it." 

I promised to do so. 

"In Lord Byron," said I, "I frequently find passages 
which merely bring objects before us, without affecting our 
feelings otherwise than the drawing of a good painter. 
'Don Juan ' is, especially, rich in such passages." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "here Lord Byron was great; his 
pictures have an air of reality, as lightly thrown off as if 
they were improvised. I know but little of ' Don Juan,' 
but I remember passages from his other poems, especially 
sea scenes, with a sail peeping out here and there, which 
are quite invaluable, for they make us seem to feel the sea- 
breeze blowing." 

"In his 'Don Juan,'" said I, "I have particularly 
admired the representation of London, which his careless 
verses bring before our very eyes. He is not very 
scrupulous whether an object is poetical or not ; but he 
seizes and uses all just as they come before him, down to 
the wigs in the haircutter's window, and the men who fill 
the street-lamps with oil." 

" Our German sesthetical people," said Goethe, " are 
always talking about poetical and unpoetical objects ; and, 
in one respect, they are not quite wrong ; yet, at bottom, 
no real object is unpoetical, if the poet knows how to use 
it properly." 

" True," said I ; "and I wish this view were adopted as 
a general maxim." 

We then spoke of the " Two Foscari," and I remarked 
that Byron drew excellent women. 

"His women," said Goethe, "are good. Indeed, this is 
the only vase into which we moderns can pour our ideality ; 
nothing can be done with the men. Homer has got all be- 
forehand in Achilles and Ulysses, the bravest and the most 
prudent." 

" There is something terrible in the ' Foscari,' " I con- 
tinued, " on account of the frequent recurrence of the rack. 



IS2 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



265 



One can hardly conceive how Lord Byron could dwell so 
long on this torturing subject, for the sake of the piece." 

" That sort of thing," said Goethe, " was Byron's 
element ; he was always a self -tormentor ; and hence such 
subjects were his darling theme, as you see in all his works, 
scarce one of which has a cheerful subject. But the exe- 
cution of the 'Eoscari' is worthy of great praise — is it 
not?" 

" Admirable ! " said I ; " every word is strong, signifi- 
cant, and subservient to the aim ; indeed, generally speak- 
ing, I have hitherto found no weak lines in Byron. I 
always fancy I see him issuing from the sea- waves, fresh, 
and full of creative power. The more I read him, the 
more I admire the greatness of his talent ; and I think you 
were quite right to present him with that immortal monu- 
ment of love in ' Helena.' " 

"I could not," said Goethe, "make use of any man as 
the representative of the modern poetical era except him, 
who undoubtedly is to be regarded as the greatest genius 
of our century. Again, Byron is neither antique nor ro- 
mantic, but like the present day itself. This was the sort 
of man I required. Then he suited me on account of his 
unsatisfied nature and his warlike tendency, which led to 
his death at Missolonghi. A treatise upon Byron would 
be neither convenient nor advisable ; but I shall not fail to 
pay him honour and to point him out at proper times." 

Goethe spoke further of " Helena " now it had again be- 
come a subject of discourse. " I at first intended a very 
different close," said he. "I modified it in various ways, 
and once very well, but I will not tell you how. Then this 
■conclusion with Lord Byron and Missolonghi was sug- 
gested to me by the events of the day, and I gave up all 
the rest. You have observed the character of the chorus is 
L quite destroyed by the mourning song .: until this time it 
lias remained thoroughly antique, or has never belied its 
girlish, nature ; but here of a sudden it becomes nobly re- 
flecting, and says things such as it has never thought or 
could think. 

"Certainly," said I, "I remarked it; but, since I have 
seen Kubens's landscape with the double shadow, and have 
got an insight into the idea of fiction, such things do not 



266 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l82 7 - 



disturb me. These little inconsistencies are of no conse- 
quence, if by their means a higher degree of beauty is ob- 
tained. The song had to be sung, somehow or other ; and 
as there was no other chorus present, the girls were forced 
to sing it." 

"I wonder," said Goethe, laughing, "what the German 
critics will say ? Will they have freedom and boldness 
enough to get over this ? Understanding will be in the 
way of the French ; they will not consider that the imagi- 
nation has its own laws, to which the understanding can- 
not, and should not, penetrate. 

"If imagination did not originate things which must 
ever be problems to the understanding, there would be but 
little for the imagination to do. It is this which separates 
jDoetry from prose ; in which latter understanding always 
is, and always should be, at home." 

I was pleased with this important remark, which I 
treasured up. I now took leave, for it was ten o'clock. 
We had been sitting without candles ; the clear summer 
evening shining from the north over the Ettersberg. 

Mon. evening, July 9. — I found Geothe alone, examining 
the plaster casts which had been taken from the Stosch cabi- 
net. " My Berlin friends," said he, "have had the kindness 
to send me this whole collection to look at. I am already 
acquainted with most of these fine things ; but now I see 
them in the instructive arrangement of Winckelmann. I 
use his description, and consult him in cases where I my- 
self am doubtful." 

We had not long talked before the Chancellor came in 
and joined us. He told us the news from the public 
papers, and, among other things, the story of a keeper of a 
menagerie, who, out of a longing for lion's flesh, had killed 
a lion, and dressed a large piece of him. 

" I wonder," said Goethe, " he did not rather try an ape ; 
that would have been a tender, relishing morsel." 

We talked of the ugliness of these beasts, remarking that 
they were the more unpleasant the more they were like men. 

"I do not understand," said the Chancellor, "how 
princes can keep these animals near them, and, indeed, 
take pleasure in them." 

" Princes," said Goethe, u are so much tormented by 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



267 



disagreeable men, that they regard these more disagreeable 
animals as a means of balancing the other unpleasant im- 
pressions. "We common people naturally dislike apes and 
the screaming of parrots, because we see them in circum- 
stances for which they were not made. If we could ride 
upon elephants among palm-trees, we should there find apes 
and parroquets quite in their place, perhaps pleasant. But, 
as I said, princes are right to drive away one repulsive 
thing with something still more repulsive. 

" On this point," said he, "a scrap of verse occurs to me, 
which perhaps you do not remember : — 

If men should ever beasts become, 
Bring only brutes into your room, 
And less disgust you'll surely feel : 
We all are Adam's children still. * 

The Chancellor turned the conversation on the present 
state of the opposition, and the ministerial party at Paris, 
repeating, almost word for word, a powerful speech, which 
an extremely bold democrat had made against the minister, 
in defending himself before a court of justice. We had an 
opportunity once more to marvel at the happy memory of the 
Chancellor. There was much conversation upon this sub- 
ject, and especially upon the censure of the press, between 
Goethe and the Chancellor; the theme proved fertile, 
Goethe showing himself, as usual, a mild aristocrat, and 
his friend, as usual, apparently taking his ground on the 
side of the people. 

"I have no fears for the French," said Goethe ; "they 
stand upon such a height from a world-historical point of 
view, that their mind cannot by any means be suppressed. 
The law restraining the press, can have only a beneficial 
effect, especially as its limitations concern nothing 
essential, but are only against personalities. An opposition 
which has no bounds is a flat affair, while limits sharpen 
its wits, and this is a great advantage. To speak out an 
opinion directly and coarsely is only excusable when one is 
perfectly right ; but a party, for the very reason that it is 
a party, cannot be wholly in xhe right ; therefore the indi- 
rect method in which the French have ever been great 
models is the best. I say to my servant plainly, ' Hans, 

* An anecdote which follows here is purposely omitted. — Trans. 



268 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1827. 



pull off my boots,' and he understands ; but if I am with 
a friend, and wish the service from him, I must not speak 
so bluntly, but must find some pleasant, friendly way, to 
ask him to perform this kind office. This necessity excites 
my mind ; and, for the same reason as I have said, I like 
some restraint upon the press. The French have always 
had the reputation of being the most spirituel of nations, 
and they ought to preserve it. We Germans speak out 
our opinions without ceremony, and have not acquired 
much skill in the indirect mode. 

" The parties at Paris would be still greater than they 
are, if they were more liberal and free, and understood 
each other better than they do. They stand upon a higher 
grade, from a world-historical point of view than the 
English; whose parliament consists of strong opposing 
powers, which paralyze one another, and where the great 
penetration of an individual has a difficulty in working 
its way, as we see by Canning, and the many annoyances 
which beset that great statesman." 

We rose to go, but Goethe was so full of life that the 
conversation was continued a while standing. At last 
he bid us an affectionate farewell, and I accompanied the 
Chancellor home to his residence. It was a beautiful 
evening, and we talked much of Goethe as we went along, 
especially repeating his remark that an unlimited opposi- 
tion becomes a flat affair. 

Sun., July 15. — I went at eight o'clock this evening to 
see Goethe, whom I found just returned from his garden. 

" See what lies there ? " said he ; "a romance, in three 
volumes ; and by whom, think you ? by Manzoni." 

I looked at the books, which were very handsomely 
bound, and inscribed to Goethe. " Manzoni is industrious," 
said I. "Yes, there is movement there," said Goethe. 

" I know nothing of Manzoni," said I, " except his ode 
to Napoleon, which I lately read again in your translation, 
and have admired to a high degree. Each strophe is a 
picture." 

"You are right," said Goethe, "the ode is excellent; but 
do you find any one who speaks of it in Germany ? It 
might as well not have existed, although it is the best 
poem which has been made upon the subject." 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



269 



Goethe continued reading the English newspapers, with 
which I had found him engaged when I came in. I took 
up that volume of Carlyle's translation of " German Ro- 
mance " which contains Musceus and Fouque. The 
Englishman, who is intimately acquainted with our 
literature, had prefixed to every translation a memoir and 
a criticism of the author. I read that upon Fouque, and 
remarked with pleasure that the biography was written 
with much thought and profundity, and that the critical 
point of view, from which this favourite author was to be 
contemplated, was indicated with great understanding, 
and a tranquil, mild penetration into poetic merits. At 
one time the clever Englishman compares Fouque to the 
voice of a singer, which has no great compass and but few 
notes, but those few are good and beautifully melodious. 
To illustrate his meaning further, he takes a simile from 
ecclesiastical polity, saying that Fouque does not hold in the 
poetic church the place of a bishop or dignitary of the 
first rank, but rather satisfies himself with the duties of 
a chaplain, and looks very well in this humble station. 

While I was reading this, Goethe had gone into the 
back chamber. He sent his servant, who invited me to 
come to him there. 

" Sit down," said he, " and let us talk awhile. A new 
translation of Sophocles has just arrived. It reads well, 
and seems to be excellent ; I will compare it with Solger. 
Now, what say you to Carlyle ? " 

I told him what I had been reading upon Fouque. 

" Is not that very good ? " said Goethe. " Ay, there 
are clever people over the sea, who know us and can 
appreciate us. 

" In other departments," continued Goethe, " there is no- 
lack of good heads even among us Germans. I have been 
reading in the Berlin Register, the criticism of an historian 
upon Schlosser, which is very great. It is signed by 
Heinrich Leo, a person of whom I never heard, but about 
whom we must inquire. He stands higher than the French, 
which, from an historical point of view, is saying some- 
thing. They stick too much to the real, and cannot get 
the ideal into their heads ; the German has this quite at 
his command. Leo has admirable views upon the castes of 



270 CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. \. 1 % Z 1 

India. Much is said of aristocracy and democracy ; but 
the whole affair is simply this : in youth, when we either 
possess nothing, or know not how to value tranquil pos- 
session, we are democrats ; but, when in a long life we 
have acquired property, we wish not only to be secure of it 
ourselves, but also that our children and grandchildren shall 
be secure of inheriting it, and quietly enjoying it. There- 
fore, in old age, we are always aristocrats, to whatever 
opinions we may have been inclined in youth. Leo speaks 
with a great deal of thought upon this point. 

" We are weakest in the aesthetic department, and may 
wait long before we meet such a man as Carlyle. It is 
pleasant to see that intercourse is now so close between 
the French, English, and Germans, that we shall be able 
to correct one another. This is the greatest use of a world- 
literature, which will show itself more and more. 

" Carlyle has written a life of Schiller, and judged him 
as it would be difficult for a German to judge him. On 
the other hand, we are clear about Shakspeare and Byron, 
and can, perhaps, appreciate their merits better than the 
English themselves." 

Wed., July 18. — " I must announce to you," was G oethe's 
first salutation at dinner, " that Manzoni's novel soars far 
above all that we know of the kind. I need say to you 
nothing more, except that the interior life — all that comes 
from the soul of the poet, is absolutely perfect ; and that 
the outward — the delineation of localities, and the like, is 
in no way inferior. That is saying something." I was 
astonished and pleased to hear this. " The impression in 
reading," continued Goethe, "is such, that we are con- 
stantly passing from emotion to admiration, and again 
from admiration to emotion ; so that we are always subject 
to one of those great influences ; higher than this, I think, 
one cannot go. In this novel we have first seen what 
Manzoni is. Here his perfect interior is exhibited, which 
he had no opportunity to display in his dramatic works. I 
will now read the best novel by Sir "Walter Scott, — per- 
haps Waverley, which I do not yet know, — and I shall see 
how Manzoni will come out in comparison with this great 
English writer. 

" Manzoni's internal culture here appears so high, that 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



271 



scarcely anything can approach it. It satisfies us like 
perfectly ripe fruit. Then, in his treatment and exhibition 
of details, he is as clear as the Italian sky itself." 

" Has he any marks of sentimentality ? " said I. 

" Nona at all," replied Goethe ; " he has sentiment, but is 
perfectly free from sentimentality ; his feeling for every 
situation is manly and genuine ; but I will say no more 
to-day. I am still in the first volume ; soon you shall hear 
more." 

Sat, July 21. — When I came into Goethe's room this 
evening, I found him reading Manzoni's novel. 

" I am in the third volume already," said he, as he laid 
aside the book, " and am thus getting many new thoughts. 
You know Aristotle says of tragedy, 1 It must excite fear, 
if it is to be good.' This is true, not only of tragedy, but 
of many other sorts of poetry. You find it in my ' Gott 
und die Bayadere.' You find it in very good comedy, 
even in the ' Sieben Madchen in Uniform ' (Seven Girls 
in Uniforn), as we do not know how the joke will turn out 
for the dear creatures. 

" This fear may be of two sorts ; it may exist in the 
shape of alarm (Angst) ; or in that of uneasiness (JBangig- 
Tceit). The latter feeling is awakened when we see a moral 
evil threatening, and gradually overshadowing, the per- 
sonages,^as, for instance, in the * Elective Affinities ; ' but 
alarm is awakened, in reader or spectator, when the 
personages are threatened with physical danger, as, for 
instance, in the ' GaMey Slave,' and in ' Der Freyschiitz — 
nay, in the scene oi the Wolf's-glen, not only alarm, but a 
sense of annihilation, is awakened in the spectators. Now, 
Manzoni makes use of this alarm with wonderful felicity, 
by resolving it into emotion, and thus leading us to admira- 
tion. The feeling of alarm is necessarily of a material 
character, and will be excited in every reader ; but that 
of admiration is excited by a recognition of the writer's 
skill, and only the connoisseur will be blessed with this 
feeling. What say you to these aesthetics of mine ? If 
I were younger, I would write something according to 
this theory, though perhaps not so extensive a work as 
this of Manzoni. 

" I am now really carious to know what the gentlemen 



272 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[.827. 



of the * Globe 9 will say to this novel. They are clever 
enough to perceive its excellencies ; and the "whole tendency 
cf the work is so much grist to the mill of these liberals, 
although Manzoni has shown himself very moderate. 
iSTevertheless, the French seldom receive a work with such 
pure kindliness as we ; they cannot readily adapt themselves 
to the authors point of view, but, even in the best, always 
find something which is not to their mind, and which the 
author should have done otherwise." 

Goethe then described to me some parts of the novel, 
in order to show me in what spirit it was written. 

" There are four things," said he, " which have contri- 
buted especially to the excellence of Manzoni's works. 
First, he is an excellent historian, and consequently gives 
his inventions a depth and dignity which raise them far 
above what are commonly called novels. Secondly, the 
Catholic religion is favourable to him, giving him many 
poetical relations, which he could not have had as a 
Protestant. Thirdly, it is to the advantage of the book 
that the author has suffered much in revolutionary col- 
lisions, which, if they did not affect him, have wounded 
his friends, and sometimes ruined them. Fourthly, it is 
in favour of this novel that the scene is laid in the charming 
country near Lake Como, which has been stamped on the 
poet's mind, from youth upwards, ind which he therefore 
knows by heart. Hence arises als'} that distinguishing 
merit of the work — its distinctness and wonderful accuracy 
in describing localities." 

Mm., 23rd July. — When I asked for Goethe, about eight 
o'clock this evening, I heard that he had- not yet returned 
from the garden. I therefore went to meet him, and found 
him in the park, sitting on a bench in the shade of the 
lindens ; his grandson, Wolfgang, at his side. He seemed 
glad to see me, and motioned me to sit down by him. We 
had no sooner exchanged salutations, than the conversation 
again turned upon Manzoni. 

"I told you lately," Goethe began, "that the historian 
had been of great use to the poet in this novel ; but now, 
in the third volume, I find that the historian hurts the poet, 
for Signor Manzoni throws off at once the poet's mantle, 
and stands for some time as a naked historian. This 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 273 

happens in his descriptions of war, famine, and pestilence — 
things which are repnlsive, and are now made insufferable 
by the circumstantial details of a dry chronicle. 

" The German translator must seek to avoid this fault ; 
he must get rid of a great part of the war and famine, 
and two-thirds of the plague, so as only to leave what is 
necessary to carry on the action. If Manzoni had had at 
his side a friendly adviser, he might easily have 
shunned this fault ; but, as a historian, he had too great a 
respect for reality. This gives him trouble even in his 
dramatic works, where, however, he helps himself through 
by adding the superfluous historical matter in the shape of 
notes. Here, however, he could not get rid of his historical 
furniture in the same manner. This is very remarkable. 
Nevertheless, as soon as the persons of the romance reap- 
pear, the poet stands once more before us in all his glory, 
and compels us to our accustomed admiration." 

We rose and directed our steps towards the house. 

"You will hardly understand," said Goethe, "how a poet 
like Manzoni, capable of such admirable compositions, 
could even for a moment sin against poetry. Yet the cause 
is simple — it is this: Manzoni, like Schiller, was born a 
poet ; but our times are so bad, that the poet can find no 
nature fit for his use in the human life which surrounds 
him. To build himself up, Schiller seized on two great 
subjectSjfphilosophy and history ; Manzoni, on history alone. 
Schiller's ' Wallenstein ' is so great, that there is nothing 
else like it of the same sort ; yet you will find that even 
these two powerful helpers — history and philosophy — have 
injured various parts of the work, and hinder a purely 
poetical success. And so Manzoni suffers from too great a 
load of history." 

"Your excellency," said I, "speaks great things, and I 
am happy in hearing you." 

" Manzoni," said Goethe, " helps us to good thoughts." 

He was proceeding with his remarks, when the Chan- 
cellor met us at the gate of Goethe's house-garden, and the 
conversation was then interrupted. He joined us as a 
welcome friend, and we accompanied Goethe up the little 
stairs, through the chamber of busts, into the long saloon, 
where the curtains were let down, and two lights were 



274 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1827. 



burning on the table near the window. We sat down by 
the table, and Goethe and the Chancellor talked upon sub- 
jects of another kind. 

(Sup.) Wed., July 25. — Goethe has lately received 
a letter from Walter Scott, which has given him great 
pleasure. He showed it to me to-day, and as the English 
handwriting was very illegible to him, he begged me to 
translate the contents to him. It appears that Goethe had 
first written to the renowned English poet, and that this 
letter was in reply. 

"I feel myself highly honoured," writes Walter Scott, 
" that any of my productions should have been so fortunate 
as to attract the attention of Goethe, to the number of 
whose admirers I have belonged since the year 1798, when, 
notwithstanding my slight knowledge of the German 
language, I was bold enough to translate into English the 
" Gotz von Berlichingen.' In this youthful undertaking, I 
had quite forgotten that it is not enough to feel the 
beauty of a work of genius, but that one must also 
thoroughly understand the language in which it is 
written before one can succeed in making such beauty 
apparent to others. Nevertheless, I still set some value on 
that youthful effort, because it at least shows that I knew 
how to choose a subject which was worthy of admira- 
tion. 

" I have often heard of you, through my son-in-law, 
Lockhart, a young man of literary eminence, who, some 
years before he became connected with my family, had the 
honour of being introduced to the father of German 
literature. It is impossible that you should recollect every 
individual of the great number of those who feel them- 
selves urged to pay you their respects ; but I believe no one 
is more heartily devoted to you than that young member of 
my family. 

" My friend Sir John Hope, of Pinkie, has lately had the 
honour of seeing you, and I hoped to write to you by him ; 
I afterwards took this liberty through two of his relations, 
who designed to travel over Germany; but illness pre- 
vented them putting their project into execution, so that 
after two or three months my letter returned to me. I also, 
at an earlier period, dared to seek Goethe's acquaintance, 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



275 



and that before the flattering notice which he has been so 
kind as to take of me. 

"It is highly gratifying to all admirers of genius to 
know that one of the greatest European models enjoys a 
fortunate and honourable retreat, at an age when he sees 
himself respected in so remarkable a manner. Poor Lord 
Byron's destiny did not grant him so fortunate a lot, since 
it carried him off in the prime of life, and cut short all 
that had been hoped and expected from him. He esteemed 
himself fortunate in the honour which you paid him, and 
felt how much he was indebted to a poet to whom all the 
writers of the present generation owe so much, that they 
feel themselves bound to look up to him with childlike 
veneration. 

" I have taken the liberty of requesting MM. Treuttel 
and Wiirtz to send to you my attempt at a biography of 
that remarkable man who for so many years had so terrible 
an influence in the world which he governed. Besides, I 
do not know whether I am not under some obligation to him, 
inasmuch as he made me carry arms for 12 years, during 
which time I served in a corps of our militia, and, in spite 
of a long standing lameness, became a good horseman, 
huntsman, and shot. These good qualities have latterly 
a little forsaken me ; rheumatism, that sad torment 
of our northern climate, having affected my limbs. How- 
ever, I do not complain ; for I see my sons join in the 
pleasures of the chase, since I have been obliged to give 
them up. 

" My eldest son has a squadron of hussars, which is a 
great deal for a young man of five-and-twenty. My 
younger son has lately taken the degree of Bachelor of 
Arts at Oxford, and is now going to spend some months at 
home, before he enters into the world. As it has pleased 
God to take their mother from me, my youngest daughter 
manages my domestic affairs. My eldest daughter is 
married, and has a family of her own. 

"This is the domestic condition of a man concerning 
whom you have so kindly inquired. For the rest, I possess 
enough to live quite as I wish, notwithstanding some very 
heavy losses. I inhabit a stately old mansion, where every 
friend of Goethe's will at all times be welcome. The hall 

t2 



270 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



is fillea with armour, which, would even have suited Jax- 
thausen ; a large bloodhound guards the entrance. 

"I have, however, forgotten him who contrived that 
people should not forget him while alive. I hope you will 
pardon the faults of the work, whilst you consider that the 
author was animated by the wish to treat the memory of 
this extraordinary man as sincerely as his island prejudices 
would allow. 

" As this opportunity of writing to you has suddenly and 
accidentally been afforded me by a traveller, and admits of 
no delay, I have not time to say more, excepting that I wish 
you a continuance of good health and repose, and subscribe 
myself, with the most sincere and deepest esteem, Walter 
Scott. 

" Edinburgh, July 9, 1827." 

Goethe was, as I said, delighted with this letter. He 
was, however, of opinion that it paid him so much respect 
that he must put a great deal to the account of the 
courtesy of a man of rank and refined cultivation. 

He then mentioned the good and affectionate manner 
in which Walter Scott spoke of his family connections, 
which pleased him highly, as a sign of brotherly confi- 
dence. 

"I am really quite impatient," continued he, "for his 
' Life of Napoleon,' which he announces to me. I hear so 
many contradictions and vehement protestations concern- 
ing the book, that I am already certain it will, in any case, 
be very remarkable." 

I asked about Lockhart, and whether he still recollected 
him. 

" Perfectly well ! " returned Goethe. " His personal 
appearance makes so decided an impression that one can- 
not easily forget him. From all I hear from Englishmen, 
and from my daughter-in-law, he ;must be a young man 
from whom great things in literature are to be expected. 

" I almost wonder that Walter Scott does not say a word 
about Carlyle, who has so decided a German tendency that 
he must certainly be known to him. 

" It is admirable in Carlyle that, in his judgment of our 
German authors, he has especially in view the mental and 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 277 

moral core as that which is really influential. Carlyle is a 
moral force of great importance. There is in him much 
for the future, and we cannot foresee what he will produce 
and effect." 

Mon., Sep. 24. — I went with Goethe to Berka. We drove 
off soon after eight o'clock ; the morning was very beautiful. 
The road is up-hill at first, and, as there was nothing in the 
scenery worth looking at, Goethe talked on literary subjects. 
A well-known German poet had lately passed through 
Weimar, and shown Goethe his album. 

" You cannot imagine what stuff it contains," said Goethe. 
"All the poets write as if they were ill, and the whole 
world were a lazaretto. They all speak of the woe and 
the misery of this earth, and of the joys of a hereafter ; all 
are discontented, and one draws the other into a state of 
still greater discontent. This is a real abuse of poetry, 
which was given to us to hide the little discords of life, and 
to make man contented with the world and his condition. 
But the present generation is afraid of all such strength, 
and only feels poetical when it has weakness to deal with. 

"I have hit on a good word," continued Goethe, "to 
tease these gentlemen. I will call their poetry * Lazaretto- 
poetry,' and I will give the name of Tyrtcean-poetry to that 
which not only sings war-songs, but also arms men with 
courage to undergo the conflicts of life." 

Goethe's words received my full assent. 

At the bottom of the carriage lay a basket made of rashes, 
with two handles, which attra cted my attention. ' ' I brought 
it with me from Marienbad," said Goethe, "where there 
are baskets of the sort of every variety of size, and I am 
so accustomed to it that I cannot travel without it. You 
see when it is empty it folds up, and occupies but little 
room, but when it is full it stretches out very wide, and 
holds more than you would imagine. It is soft and pliant, 
and at the same time so tough and strong, that the heaviest 
things can be carried in it." 

" It has a very picturesque and even an antique appear- 
ance," said I. 

"You are right," said Goethe; "it does approach the 
antique character, since it is not only as fit for its purpose 
as possible ; but it has the simplest and most pleasing form, 



278 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



so that we may say it stands 011 the highest point of perfec- 
tion. During my mineralogical excursions in the Bohemian 
mountains, I have found it especially serviceable ; now, it 
contains our breakfast. If I had a hammer, I should not 
lack an opportunity to-day to knock oft a piece here and 
there, and bring home the basket full of stones." 

We had now reached the heights, and had a free prospect 
towards the hills behind which Berka lies. A little to the 
left we saw into the valley which leads to Hetschburg, and 
where, on the other side of the Ilm, is a hill, which now 
turned towards us its shadowy side, and, on account of the 
vapours of the valley which hovered before it, seemed blue 
to my eye. I looked at the same spot through my glass, 
and the blue was obviously diminished. I observed this to 
Goethe. " Thus you see," said I, " what a great part the 
subject plays with these purely objective colours ; a weak 
eye increases the density, while a sharpened one drives it 
away, or, at any rate, makes it diminish." 

"Your remark is perfectly just," said Goethe; "a good 
telescope dispels the blue tint of the most distant moun- 
tains. The subject is, in all the phenomena, far more 
important than is supposed. Even Wieland knew this very 
well, for he was wont to say, - One could easily amuse people, 
if they were only amusable.' " 

We laughed at the pleasant meaning of these words. We 
had, in the meanwhile, descended the little valley where the 
road passes over a roofed wooden bridge, under which the 
ram torrents, which flow down to Hetschburg, had made a 
channel, which was now dry. Highway labourers were 
employed in setting up against the bridge some reddish 
sandstones, which attracted Goethe's attention. At about 
a stone's throw over the bridge, where the road goes 
gradually up the hill which separates the traveller from 
Berka, Goethe bade the coachman stop. 

" We will get out here," said he, " and see whether we 
shall not relish a little breakfast in the open air." 

We got out and looked about us. The servant spread a 
napkin upon a four-cornered pile of stones, such as usually 
lie by the road-side, and brought the osier basket from the 
carriage, out of which he took roast partridges, new wheaten 
rolls, and pickled cucumbers. Goethe cut a partridge, and 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 279 

gave me half ; I ate, standing up and • walking about. 
Goethe had seated himself on the corner of a heap of 
stones. The coldness of the stones, on which the night- 
dew was still resting, must hurt him, I thought, and I 
expressed my anxiety. Goethe, however, assured me it 
would not hurt him at all, and then I felt quite tranquil, 
regarding it as a new token of the inward strength he must 
feel. In the meanwhile, the servant had brought a bottle 
of wine from the carriage, and filled for us. 

" Our friend Schiitze," said Goethe, "is quite right to fly 
to the country every week ; we will take pattern by him, and 
if this fine weather continues for a while, this shall not b3 
our last excursion." 

I was rejoiced by this assurance. 

I passed, afterwards, with Goethe, a most interesting 
day, partly in Berka, partly in Tonndorf. He was inex- 
haustible in intellectual communications, and talked much 
of the second part of "Faust," on which he was just 
beginning to work in earnest ; I therefore lament so much 
the more, that nothing is noted down in my journal beyond 
this introduction. 

(Sup.) Wed., Sep. 26. — Goethe had invited me to take a 
drive this morning to the Hottelstedt Ecke, the most western 
summit of the Ettersberg, and thence to the Ettersburg 
hunting lodge. The day was very fine, and we drove early 
out of the Jacob's gate. Behind Liitzendorf, where the 
journey was up-hill, and we could only drive leisurely, we 
had an opportunity for various observations. Goethe ob- 
served in the hedges a number of birds, and asked me if 
they were larks. Thou great and beloved one, thought I, 
though thou hast investigated nature as few others have, 
in ornithology thou appearest a mere child. 

" These are yellow-hammers and sparrows," returned I, 
" and some late grasmiheken* which, after moulting, come 
from the thicket of the Ettersberg down to the gardens 
and fields, and prepare for their migration ; but there are 
no larks. It is not in the nature of larks to settle upon 
bushes. The field or sky-larks, rise upwards into the air, 
Mid dart down again to the earth ; they also, in the autumn, 

* A kind of small singing bird. — Trans. 



280 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[.827. 



fly through the air in flocks, and settle themselves some- 
where in a stubble-field ; but they do not settle upon hedges 
and bushes. The tree-lark, on the contrary, lives on the 
summit of high trees, whence it rises singing into the air, 
and then drops down again to its tree-top. There is still 
another lark, which is found in woodland glades, and 
which has a soft, flute-like, but rather melancholy, song. 
It is not found on the Ettersberg, which is too lively, and 
too near the dwellings of man ; neither does it perch upon 
bushes." 

" Humph ! " said Goethe, "you appear to be no novice in 
these things." 

" I have pursued the subject with ardour from my youth," 
returned I, " and have always had my eyes and ears open 
to it. In the whole wood of the Ettersberg, there are few 
spots through which I have not repeatedly rambled. Now, 
when I hear any note, I can venture to say from what bird 
it proceeds. I have also gone so far that, if any one brings 
me a bird that has lost its feathers in captivity through 
bad treatment, I will undertake very soon to restore it to 
health and full feather." 

"That certainly shows," returned Goethe, "that you 
have already made much progress in these matters ; I would 
advise you to pursue the study earnestly ; it must, with your 
decided inclination, lead to very good results. But tell me 
something about moulting. You just now spoke of gras- 
mucken, which, after the completion of their moulting, 
come down into the fields from the thickets of the Etters- 
berg. Is moulting, then, confined to a certain time, and do 
all birds moult at once ? " 

"Most birds," returned I, "commence at the end of the 
breeding season ; that is to say, as soon as the young of the 
last brood are so far advanced as to be able to take care of 
themselves. But now the question is, whether the bird has 
time to moult between this period and that of its migration ? 
If it has, it moults, and migrates with fresh feathers; 
but if it has not, it migrates with its old feathers, and 
moults later, in the warm south. Birds do not all return 
to us at the same time in the spring, neither do they 
migrate at the same time in the autumn. And this proceeds 
from the circumstance that some are less affected by cold 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



281 



and rough weather, and can bear it better than others. 
But a bird which comes to us early migrates late, and a bird 
which comes to us late migrates early. 

" Thus, even amongst the grasmiicken, though they 
belong to one class, there is a great difference. The 
chattering grasmucke, or the miillercJien, * - are heard at 
the end of March ; a fortnight after comes the black- 
headed one, or the monk (Monch) ; then, a week after- 
wards, the nightingale ; and quite at the end of April, or 
the beginning of May, the grey one. All these birds 
moult in August with us, as well as the young of the first 
brood ; wherefore, at the end of August, young monks are 
caught, which have already black heads. The young of 
the last brood, however, migrate with their first feathers, 
and moult later in the southern countries, for which reason 
young monks are caught at the beginning of September, 
especially young male birds, which have red heads like 
their mother." 

"Is, then," asked Goethe, "the grey grasmucke the 
latest bird that returns to us, or are there others later ? " 

"The so-called yellow sj>ottvogel (mocking-bird), and 
the magnificent golden pirol (yellow thrush)," returned I, 
" do not appear till about Whitsuntide. Both migrate in 
the middle of August, after the breeding season, and 
moult, with their young, in the south. If they are kept 
in cages, they moult with us in the winter ; on which 
account they are very difficult to rear. They require much 
Avarmth, yet if we hang them near the stove they pine 
from the want of fresh air ; while if, on the contrary, we 
place them near the window, they pine in the cold of the 
long nights." 

" It is supposed, then," said Goethe, " that moulting is 
a disease, or at least is attended by bodily weakness." 

"I would not say that," said I. "It is a state of in- 
creased productiveness, which is gone through without 
difficulty in the open air, and with somewhat strong birds 
perfectly well in a room. I have had grasmilcken which 
have not ceased singing during their moulting, a sign that 
they were thoroughly well. But if a bird kept in a room 

* Literally, " little miller." — Trans. 



282 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



appears at all sickly during its moulting, it may be con- 
cluded that it has not been properly treated, with respect 
either to food, water, or fresh air. If, in the course of 
time, a bird kept in a room has grown so weak from want 
of air and freedom, that it has not the productive power 
to moult, and if it is then taken into the fruitful, fresh air, 
the moulting will go on as well as possible. With a bird 
at liberty, on the other hand, it passes off so gently and 
gradually that it is scarcely felt." 

" But, still, you just now seemed to hint," added Goethe, 
"that during their moulting the grasmiichen retire into 
the depths of the forest." 

"During that time," returned I, "they certainly need 
shelter ; and in this case nature proceeds with such wisdom 
and moderation, that a bird during its moulting never 
loses so many feathers at once as to render it incapable 
of flying sufficiently to reach its food. But it may still 
happen that it loses, for instance, at the same time the 
fourth, fifth, and sixth principal feathers of the left wing, 
and the fourth, fifth, and sixth feathers of the right one, 
so that, although it can still fly very well, it cannot fly 
well enough to escape from the pursuing birds of prey 
— especially the swift and active tree falcon — and then a 
bushy thicket is very useful." 

" Good," returned Goethe. " But," continued he, 
"does the moulting take place in both wings equally and 
symmetrically ? " 

"As far as my observation extends, quite so," returned 
I; "and that is very beneficial. For if a bird lost, for 
instance, three principal feathers from the left wing and 
not so many from the right, the wings would be without 
equilibrium, and the bird would have no proper control 
over itself or its movements. It would be like a ship, 
the sails of which are too heavy on one side, and too 
light on the other." 

"I see," returned Goethe, "we may penetrate into 
nature on whatever side we please, and always come to 
some wisdom." 

We were, meantime, continually going up-hill, and were 
now on the edge of a pine wood. We came to a place 
where some stones had oecn broken, and lay in a heap. 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



285 



Goethe ordered the coachman to stop, and begged me to 
alight and see if I could discover any petrifactions. I 
found some shells, and also some broken ammonites, which 
I handed to him when I again took my seat. We drove on. 

"Always the old story," said Goethe; "always the old 
bed of the sea ! When one looks down from this height 
upon Weimar, and upon the numerous villages around, 
it appears wonderful when one thinks that there was a 
time when whales sported in the broad valley below. And 
yet there was such a time — at least it is highly probable. 
But the mew that flew over the sea which then covered 
this mountain certainly never thoughb that we two should 
drive here to-day. And who knows whether, in some 
thousands of years, the mew may not again fly over 
this mountain." 

We were now upon the height, and drove quickly along. 
On our right were oaks, beeches, and other leafy trees : 
Weimar was behind us, but out of sight. We had reached 
the western height ; — the broad valley of the Unstrut with 
many villages and small towns, lay before us, in the clearest 
morning sun. 

"This is a good resting-place," said Goethe, as he 
ordered the coachman to stop. "I think we may as well 
try how a little breakfast would suit us in this good air." 

We alighted, and walked up and down for a few minutes 
upon the dry earth, at the foot of some half-grown oaks, 
stunted by many storms, whilst Frederick unpacked the 
breakfast we had brought with us, and spread it upon a 
turfy hillock. The view from this spot, in the clear morn- 
ing light of the autumn sun, was truly magnificent. On 
the south and south-west we saw the whole range of the 
Thii ringer- wald mountains ; on the west, beyond Erfurt, 
the towering Castle Gotha and the Inselsberg; farther 
north, the mountains behind Langensalza and Muhlhausen, 
until the view was bounded on the north by the blue Hartz 
Mountains. I thought of the verses — 

" Far, high, splendid the view, 
Around into life ! 
From mountain to mountain, 
Soars the eternal spirit, 
Presaging endless life." 



284 CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. [^27. 

We seated ourselves with our backs against the oak ; so 
that, during breakfast, we had constantly before us the 
extensive view over half Thiiringia. In the meanwhile we 
demolished a brace of roast partridges, with new white 
bread, and drank a flask of very good wine, out of a cup 
of pure gold which Goethe always carried with him on 
such excursions in a yellow leather case. 

" I have very often been in this spot," said he, " and ox 
late years I have often thought it would be the last time 
that I should look down hence on the kingdoms of the 
world, and their glories ; but it has happened still once 
again, and I hope that even this is not the last time that 
we shall both spend a pleasant day here. We will, for the 
future, often come hither. One shrinks in the narrow 
confinement of the house. Here one feels great and free, 
as the great nature which one has before one's eyes, and 
as one ought, properly, always to be." 

"From this spot," continued Goethe, "I look down 
upon many points which are bound up with the richest 
recollections of a long life. What have I not, in my 
youth, gone through yonder in the mountains of Ilmenau ? 
Then, how many adventures have I had down below there, 
in dear Erfurt ! In early times, too, I often liked to be at 
Gotha; but for many years I have scarcely been there at 
all." * 

" Since I have been in Weimar," remarked I, " I do not 
recollect you going there." 

" There is a reason for that," returned Goethe, laughing, 
"I am not in the best favour there. I will tell you the 
story. When the mother of the present ruler was in the 
bloom of youth, I was very often there. I was sitting- 
one evening alone with her at the tea-table, when the two 
princes, of ten and twelve years of age, two pretty, fair- 
haired boys, burst in and came to the table. With great 
audacity, I put a hand through the hair of each prince, 
with the words — l Now, you floury heads, what do you want ? ' 
The boys stared in the greatest astonishment at my bold- 
ness, and they have never forgotten the affair ! I will not 
boast of it now; but so it was, and it lay deep in my 
nature. I never had much respect for mere princely rank 
as such, when there was not behind it sound human 



1827.] conversations of goethe. 285 

nature, and sound human worth. Nay, I felt so satisfied 
with myself, that if I had been made a prince I should not 
have thought the change so very remarkable. When the 
diploma of nobility was given me, many thought that I 
should feel elevated by it ; but, between ourselves, it was 
nothing to me — really nothing ! We Frankfort patricians 
always considered ourselves equal to the nobility ; and when 
I held the diploma in my hands I had nothing more, in my 
own opinion, than I had possessed long ago." 

We took another good draught from the golden cup, and 
then drove round the northern side of the Ettersberg to the 
Ettersberg hunting-lodge. Goethe had all the chambers 
opened, which were hung with beautiful tapestry and 
pictures. He told me that Schiller had for some time 
inhabited the chamber at the western angle of the first 
story. 

" In early times," continued he, " we have here spent 
many a good day, and wasted many a good day. We were 
all young and wanton : in the summer we had impromptu 
comedies, and in the winter many a dance and sledge-race 
by torch-light." 

We returned into the open air, and Goethe led me, in a 
westerly direction, along a footpath into the wood. 

" I will show you the beech," said he, " on which we cut 
our names fifty years ago. But how it has altered, and 
how everything has grown ! That must be the tree ; you 
see that it is still in the fullest vigour. Even our names 
are still to be traced ; but they are so confused and distorted 
that they are scarcely to be made out. This beech then 
stood upon a dry, open spot. It was quite sunny and 
pleasant around it, and here, in the beautiful summer 
evenings, we played our impromptu farces. Now the spot 
is damp and cheerless. What were then only low bushes 
have now grown up into shady trees, so that one can 
scarcely distinguish in the thicket the magnificent beech 
of one's youth." 

We returned to the lodge, and after we had seen the 
tolerably rich collection of arms, we drove back to Weimar. 

(Sup.) Thurs., Sept. 27. — This afternoon spent a short 
time with Goethe, when I made the acquaintance of Privy- 
councillor Streckfuss, of Berlin, who had taken a drive 



286 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



with him in the forenoon, and had then stayed to dinner. 
When Streckfuss went, I accompanied him, and took a 
walk through the park. On my return across the market- 
place, I met the Chancellor and Ranpach, with whom I 
went into the " Elephant." In the evening I returned to 
Goethe, who talked with me about a new number of 
" Kunst und Alterthum " (Art and Antiquity), and also 
about a dozen pencil- drawings, in which the brothers 
Hiepenhausen endeavoured to represent the painting of 
Polygnotus, in the Lesche at Delphi, according to the 
description of Pausanias, an attempt which Goethe could 
not sufficiently praise. 

(Sup.) Mon., Oct 1.— -At the theatre, "Das Bild" (the 
Picture), by Houwald. I saw two acts, and then went to 
Goethe, who read to me the second scene of his new Faust. 

"In the emperor," said he, "I have endeavoured to 
represent a prince who has all the necessary qualities for 
losing his land, and at last succeeds in so doing. 

" He does not concern himself about the welfare of his 
kingdom and his subjects ; he only thinks of himself, and 
how he can amuse himself from day to day with something 
new. The land is without law and justice ; the judge him- 
self is on the side of the criminals ; the most atrocious 
crimes are committed without check and with impunity. 
The army is without pay, without discipline, and roams 
about plundering, in order to provide its own pay, and help 
itself as it can. The state treasury is without money, and 
without hope of replenishment. In the emperor's own 
household, things are no better ; there is scarcity both in 
kitchen and cellar. The marshal, who cannot devise means 
how to get on from day to day, is already in the hands of 
usurious Jews, to whom everything is pawned, so that 
bread already eaten comes to the emperor's table. 

" The councillor of state wishes to remonstrate with his 
Majesty upon all these evils, and advises as to their remedy; 
but the gracious sovereign is very unwilling to lend his 
Sublime ear to anything so disagreeable; he prefers 
amusing himself. Here now is the true element for 
Mephisto, who quickly supplants the former fool, and is at 
once at the side of the emperor as new fool and counsellor." 

Goethe read the scene and the interspersed murmurinrr 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



287 



of the crowd excellently, and I had a very pleasant 
evening. 

(Sup.) Sun., Oct. 7. — This morning, the weather being 
very beautiful, I found myself in the chariot with Goethe 
before eight o'clock, and on the road to Jena, where he 
intended to stay until the next evening. 

Having arrived there early we first called at the bo- 
tanical garden, where Goethe surveyed all the shrubs and 
plants, and found them all thriving and in beautiful order. 
"We also looked over the mineralojncal cabinets, and some 
other collections of natural objects, and then drove to Herr 
von Knebel's, who expected us to dinner. 

Knebel, who had attained a great age, almost stumbled 
towards Goethe at the door, to fold him in his arms. At 
dinner all were very lively and hearty, although there was 
no conversation of any importance. The two old friends 
were quite enough occupied with the pleasivre of their 
friendly meeting. After dinner we took a drive in a 
southerly direction, up the Saale. I had known this 
charming region in earlier times, but everything appeared 
as fresh as if I had never seen it before. 

When we returned into the streets of Jena, Goethe gave 
orders to drive along a brook, and to stop at a house the 
external appearance of which was not very striking. 

" This was the dwelling of Voss," said he, " and I will 
conduct you on this classic ground." We walked through 
the house, and entered the garden. There were but few 
traces of flowers and the finer species of culture; we 
walked on the turf completely under fruit trees. 

" This was something for Ernestine," said Goethe, "who 
could not even here forget her excellent Eutiner apples, 
which she praised to me as incomparable. But they were 
the apples of her childhood, there was the charm ! I have 
spent many pleasant evenings here with Voss and his ex- 
cellent Ernestine, and I still like to think of the old time. 
Such a man as Voss will not soon come again. There are 
few who have had such influence as he upon the higher 
German culture. With him everything was sound and 
solid ; and on this account he had no artificial, but a 
purely natural relation to the Greeks, which produced the 
noblest fruits for us. One who is so penetraf ed with his 



28« CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1827. 

worth, as I am scarcely knows how to honour his memory 
sufficiently." 

It was by this time about six o'clock, and Goethe con- 
sidered it time to go to our night quarters, which he had 
bespoken at the " Bear." 

We were accommodated with a roomy chamber, together 
with an alcove containing two beds. The sun had not long 
set — the evening light reposed upon our windows, and it 
was pleasant to sit for some time without a candle. 

Goethe brought the conversation back to Yoss. "He 
was very valuable to me," said he, "and I would willingly 
have retained him for the University and myself ; but the 
advantages offered from Heidelberg were too important for 
us, with our limited means, to be jable to outweigh them. 
I was obliged, with mournful resignation, to let him go. 
It was, however, fortunate for me at that time," continued 
Goethe, "that I had Schiller; for, different as our natures 
were, our tendencies were still towards one point, which 
made our connection so intimate that one really could not 
live without the other." 

Goethe related me some anecdotes of his friend, which 
appeared to me very characteristic. 

" Schiller was, as you may imagine from his high 
character," said he, " a decided enemy to all the hollow 
reverence, and all the vain idolatry, which people paid 
him, or wished to pay him. When Kotzebue proposed to 
get up a public demonstration in his house, it was so dis- 
tasteful to him that he was almost ill with inward disgust. 
It was also repulsive to him when a stranger was announced. 
If he were hindered for a moment from seeing him, and 
made an appointment for four o'clock in the afternoon, it 
generally happened that at the appointed hour he was ill 
from mere apprehension. On these occasions he could now 
and then be very impatient, and sometimes even rude. I 
was witness of his impetuous conduct toward a foreign 
surgeon, who entered unannounced to pay him a visit. 
The poor man, quite put out of countenance, did not know 
how he could retreat rapidly enough. 

" However, as I have said, and as we all know," continued 
Goethe, " we were, in spite of the similarity of our ten- 
deiicies, very different in our natures, and that not merely 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 289 

in mental but also in physical matters. An air that was 
beneficial to Schiller acted on me like poison. I called on 
him one day, and as I did not find him at home, and his 
wife told me that he would soon return, I seated myself at 
his work-table to note down various matters. I had not 
been seated long before I felt a strange indisposition steal 
over me, which gradually increased, until at last 1 nearly 
fainted. At first I did not know to what cause I should 
ascribe this wretched and, to me, unusual state, until I 
discovered that a dreadful odour issued from a drawer near 
me. When I opened it, I found to my astonishment that it 
was full of rotten apples. I immediately went to the 
window and inhaled the fresh air, by which I felt myself 
instantly restored. In the mean time his wife had re- 
entered, and told me that the drawer was always filled with 
rotten apples, because the scent was beneficial to Schiller, 
and he could not live or work without it. 

" To-morrow morning," continued Goethe, " I will also 
show you where Schiller lived in Jena." 

In the mean time lights were brought in; we took a little 
supper, and afterwards sat for a little time engaged in 
various conversations and recollections. 

I related to Goethe a wonderful dream of my boyish 
years, which was literally fulfilled the next morning. 

"I had," said I, "brought up three young linnets, to 
which I devoted my whole heart, and which I loved above 
all things. They flew freely about my chamber, and came 
towards me and settled on my hand as soon as I entered at 
the door. One day at noon, I had the misfortune, that, on 
my entrance into the chamber, one of the birds flew over 
me, out of the house — I knew not whither. I sought it the 
whole afternoon, on all the roofs, and was inconsolable 
when evening came and I had discovered no traces of it. I 
went to sleep with sad thoughts in my heart, and towards 
morning I had the following dream: — Methought I 
roamed about the neighbouring houses in search of my lost 
bird. All at once I heard the sound of its voice, and saw 
it behind the garden of our cottage, seated upon the roof of 
a neighbour's house. I called to it, and it approached me, 
moved its wings towards me as if asking for food, but still 
it could not venture to fly down to my hand. I ran 

U 



290 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



quickly through our garden into my chamber, and returned 
with a cup of soaked rape seed ! I held the favourite food, 
towards it, and it perched upon my hand, when, full of joy, 
I carried it back into my chamber to the other two. 

"With this dream I awoke; and as it was then broad 
daylight, I quickly put on my clothes, and with the utmost 
haste ran down through our little garden to the house 
where 1 had seen the bird. But how great was my 
astonishment when the bird was really there ! Every- 
thing happened literally as I had seen it in the dream. I 
called the bird, it approached, but it hesitated to fly to my 
hand. I ran back and brought the food, when it flew 
upon my hand, and I took it back to the others." 

" This boyish adventure of yours," said Goethe, "is cer- 
tainly very remarkable. But there are many such things in 
nature, though we have not the right key to them. We all 
walk in mysteries. We are surrounded by an atmosphere of 
which we do not know what is stirring in it, or how it is 
connected with our own spirit. So much is certain, — that 
in particular cases we can put out the feelers of our soul 
beyond its bodily limits, and that a presentiment, nay, an 
actual insight into the immediate future, is accorded to it." 

" I have lately experienced something similar," returned 
I. "As I was returning from a walk along the Erfurt 
road, about ten minutes before I reached Weimar, I had the 
mental impression that a person whom I had not seen, and 
of whom I had not even thought for a length of time, 
would meet me at the corner of the theatre. It troubled 
me to think that this person might meet me, and great was 
my surprise when, as I was about to turn the corner, this 
very person actually met me, in the same place which I 
had seen in my imagination ten minutes before." 

" That is also very wonderful, and more than chance," 
returned Groethe. " As I said, we are all groping among 
mysteries and wonders. Besides, one soul may have a de- 
cided influence upon another, merely by means of its silent 
presence, of which I could relate many instances. It has 
often happened to me that, when I have been walking with 
an acquaintance, and have had a living image of something 
in my mind, he has at once begun to speak of that very 
thing. I have also known a man who, without saying a 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



291 



word, could suddenly silence a party engaged in cheerful 
conversation, by the mere power of his mind. Nay, he 
could also introduce a tone which would make everybody 
feel uncomfortable. We have all something of electrical 
and magnetic forces within us, and we put forth, like the 
magnet itself, an attractive or repulsive power, accordingly 
as we come in contact with something similar or dissimilar. 
It is possible, nay, even probable, that if a young girl were, 
without knowing it, to find herself in a dark chamber with 
a man who designed to murder her, she would have an un- 
easy sense of his unknown presence, and that an anguish 
would come over her, which would drive her from the 
room to the rest of the household." 

" I know a scene in an opera," returned I, "in which two 
lovers, who had long been separated by a great distance, 
find themselves together in a dark room without knowing 
it ; but they do not remain long together before the mag- 
netic power begins to work ! one feels the proximity of the 
other — 'they are involuntarily attracted towards each other 
— and it is not long before the young girl is clasped in the 
arms of the youth." 

"With lovers," answered Goethe, "this magnetic power 
is particularly strong, and acts even at a distance. In my 
younger days I have experienced cases enough, when, 
during solitary walks, I have felt a great desire for the 
company of a beloved girl, and have thought of her till she 
has really come to meet me. ' I was so restless in my 
room,' she has said, ' that I could not help coming here.' 

" I recollect an instance during the first years of my 
residence here, where I soon fell in love again. I had 
taken a long journey, and had returned some days ; but, 
being detained late at night by court affairs, I had not been 
able to visit my mistress; besides, our mutual affection 
had already attracted attention, and I was afraid to pay 
my visits by day, lest I should increase the common talk. 
On the fourth or fifth evening, however, I could resist no 
longer, and I was on the road to her, and stood before her 
house, before I had thought of it. I went softly upstairs, 
and was upon the point of entering her room, when I heard, 
by the different voices, that she was not alone. I went 
down again unnoticed, and was quickly in the dark streets, 

u2 



292 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



•winch at that time were not lighted. In an impassioned 
and angry mood I roamed about the town in all directions, 
for about an hour, and passed the house once more, full of 
passionate thoughts of my beloved. At last I was on the 
point of returning to my solitary room, when I once more 
went past her house, and remarked that she had no light. 
' She must have gone out,' said I to myself, ' but whither, 
in this dark night ? and where shall I meet her ? ' I after- 
wards went through many streets — I met many people, and 
was often deceived, inasmuch as I often fancied I saw her 
form and size ; but, on nearer approach invariably found 
that it was not she. I then firmly believed in a strong 
mutual influence, and that I could attract her to me by a 
strong desire. I also believed myself surrounded by in- 
visible beings of a higher order, whom I entreated to direct 
her steps to me, or mine to her. ' But what a fool thou 
art ! ' I then said to myself ; ' thou wilt not seek her and 
go to her again, and yet thou desires t signs and wonders ! ' 

" In the mean time I had gone down the esplanade, and 
had reached the small house in which Schiller afterwards 
lived, when it occurred to me to turn back towards the 
palace, and then go down a little street to the right. I had 
scarcely taken a hundred steps in this direction, when I 
saw a female form coming towards me which perfectly re- 
sembled her I expected. The street was faintly lighted by 
the weak rays which now and then shone from a window, 
and since I had been already often deceived in the course 
of the evening with an apparent resemblance, I did not feel 
courage to speak to her in doubt. We passed quite close 
to each other, so that our arms touched. I stood still and 
looked about me ; she did the same. ' Is it you ? ' said she, 
and I recognised her beloved voice. ' At last ! ' said I, 
and was enraptured even to tears. Our hands clasped each 
other. ' Now,' said I, 4 my hopes have not deceived me ; I 
have sought you with the greatest eagerness ; my feelings 
told me that I should certainly find you ; now I am happy, 
and I thank God that my forebodings have proved true.' 
' But, you wicked one ! ' said she, ' why did you not come ? 
I heard to-day, by chance, that you had been back three 
days, and I have wept the whole afternoon, because I 
thought you had forgotten me. Then, an hour ago, I was 



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293 



seized with a longing and uneasiness on your account, such 
as I cannot describe. There were two female friends with 
me, whose visit appeared interminable. At last, when they 
were gone, I involuntarily seized my hat and cloak, and 
was impelled to go out into the air and darkness, I knew 
not whither ; you were constantly in my mind, and I could 
not help thinking that I should meet you.' Whilst she 
thus spoke truly from her heart, we still held each other's 
hands, and pressed them, and gave each other to under- 
stand that absence had not cooled our love. I accompanied 
her to her door, and into the house. She went up the dark 
stairs before me, holding my hand and drawing me after 
her. My happiness was indescribable ; both because I at 
last saw her again, and also because my belief had not de- 
ceived me, and I had not been deluded in my sense of an 
invisible influence." 

Goethe was in a most amiable mood ; I could have 
listened to him for hours ; but he seemed to be gradually 
growing tired, and so we very soon went to bed in our 
alcove. 

(Sup.) Jena, Mon., Oct. 8. — We arose early. Whilst we 
were dressing, Goethe related to me a dream of the 
previous night, in which he imagined himelf at Gottingen, 
where he had various pleasant conversations with the pro- 
fessors of his acquaintance. 

We drank a few cups of coffee, and then drove to the 
building which contains a collection of natural objects. 
We saw the anatomical cabinet, various skeletons of ani- 
mals, modern and primeval, as well as skeletons of men of 
former ages, on which Goethe remarked that their teeth 
showed them to have been a very . moral race. We then 
drove to the observatory, where Dr. Schron showed and 
explained to us the most important instruments. We also 
examined the adjacent meteorological cabinet with great 
interest, and Goethe praised Dr. Schron, on account of the 
great order which prevailed in all these things. 

We then went down into the garden, where Goethe had 
caused a little breakfast to be laid out upon a stone table 
in an arbour. "You scarcely know," said Goethe, " in 
what a remarkable place we are now seated. Here it was 
that Schiller dwelt. In this arbour, upon these benches, 



294 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1827. 

which are now almost broken, we have often sat at 
this old stone table, and have exchanged many good and 
great words. He was then in the thirties, I in the forties ; 
both were full of aspirations, and indeed it was something. 
Everything passes away ; I am no more what I was ; but 
the old earth still remains, and air, water, and land are 
still the same. 

"Afterwards you shall go upstairs with Schron, who 
will show you the room in the mansarde, which Schiller 
occupied." 

In the mean time we relished our breakfast very much 
in this pleasant air, and on this delightful spot. Schiller 
was present, at least in our minds ; and Goethe devoted to 
him many kind words of affectionate remembrance. 

I then went with Schron to the mansarde, and enjoyed 
the magnificent prospect from Schiller's windows. The 
direction was due south, so that one might see the beautiful 
stream, interrupted by thickets and windings, flowing 
along for miles. There was also a wide expanse of sky. 
One could admirably observe the rising and setting of the 
planets ; and it could not be denied that this locality was 
very favourable for the conception of the astronomical 
and astrological part of Wallenstein. 

I returned to Goethe, who drove to Hofrath Dobereiner, 
whom he highly esteems, and who showed him some new 
chemical experiments. 

It was by this time noon. We were again seated in the 
carriage. 

"I think," said Goethe, "we will not return to 'The 
Bear,' to dinner, but will enjoy the splendid day in the 
open aii\ I think we will go to Burgau. We have wine 
with us, and, in any case, we shall find there some good 
fish, which can be either boiled or broiled." 

We did so, and the plan proved splendid. We drove 
along the bank of the Saale, by the thickets and the wind- 
ings, the pleasantest way, as I had already seen from 
Schiller's mansarde. We were soon in Burgau. We 
alighted at the little inn near the river, and the bridge, 
where there is a crossing to Lobeda, a little town which was 
close before our eyes across the meadows. 

At the little inn we found all as Goethe had said. The 



1 8*7-3 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



295 



hostess apologized for having nothing prepared ; but said 
we should have some soup and some good fish. 

In the mean time we walked in the sunshine, up and 
down the bridge, amusing ourselves by looking at the 
river, which was animated by raftmen, who, upon planks 
of pine-wood bound together, glided under the bridge from 
time to time, and were very noisy and merry over their 
troublesome, wet occupation. 

We ate our fish in the open air, and then remained sit- 
ting over a little wine, and had all sorts of pleasant con- 
versation. A small hawk flew past, which in its flight and 
its form bore a strong resemblance to the cuckoo. 

"There was a time," said Goethe, "when the study of 
natural history was so much behindhand that the opinion 
was universally spread that the cuckoo was a cuckoo only 
in summer, but in winter a bird of prey." 

" This opinion still exists amongst the people," returned 
I. " And it is also laid to the charge of this good bird, 
that as soon as it is full grown, it devours its own parents. 
It is, therefore, used as a simile of shameful ingratitude. 
I know people at the present moment who will not allow 
themselves to be talked out of these absurdities, and who 
cling to them as firmly as to any article of their Christian 
belief." 

" As far as I know," said Goethe, " the cuckoo is classed 
with the woodpecker." 

"That is sometimes done," returned I, "probably be- 
cause two of the toes of its weak feet have a backward 
inclination. I, however, should not so class it. For the 
woodpecker's life it has neither the strong beak, capable of 
breaking the decayed bark of a tree, nor the sharp and 
very strong feathers in the tail, which are fit to support it 
during the operation. Its toes, also, want the sharp 
claws necessary to sustain it ; and I, therefore, consider its 
small feet as not actually, but only apparently, made for 
climbing." 

" The ornithologists," added Goethe, " are probably de- 
lighted when they have brought any peculiar bird under 
some head ; but still nature carries on her own free sport, 
without troubling herself with the classes marked out by 
limited men." 



296 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



"The nightingale, too," continued I, "is numbered 
amongst the grasmiicken, whilst in the energy of its nature, 
its movements, and its mode of life, it bears far more 
resemblance to the thrnsh. But still, I would not class it 
among the thrushes. It is a bird between the two ; a bird 
by itself, as the cuckoo is a bird by itself, with a strongly 
expressed individuality." 

"All that I have heard concerning the cuckoo," said 
Goethe, "excites in me a great interest in this wonderful 
bird. It is of a highly problematical nature, a manifest 
mystery, but not the less difficult to interpret because it is 
so manifest. And with how many things do we not find 
ourselves in the same predicament ? We stand in mere 
wonderment, and the best part of things is closed to us. 
Let us take the bees. We see them fly for miles after honey, 
and always in a different direction. Now they fly west- 
ward for a week, to a field of blooming rape-seed ; then, for 
a long time, northward, to a blooming heath ; then in 
another direction to the blossom of the buckwheat ; then 
somewhere else, to a blooming clover-field ; and at last, in 
some other direction, to a blossoming lime. But who has 
said to them, ' Now fly thither, there is something for 
you ? ' and ' now thither, there is something fresh ? ' And 
who has led them back to their village and their cell ? 
They go hither and thither, as if in invisible leading- 
strings ; but what these really are we do not know. It is 
the same with the lark. She rises, singing, from a corn- 
field ; she soars over a sea of corn, which the wind blows 
backwards and forwards, and in which one wave looks like 
the other ; she then returns to her young, and drops 
down, without fail, upon the little spot where her nest is 
placed. All these outward things are as clear as the day 
to us ; but their inward, spiritual tie is concealed." 

"With the cuckoo," said I, "it is not otherwise. We 
know that it does not brood itself, but lays its egg in the 
nest of some other bird. We know, furthermore, that it 
lays it in the nest of the grasmiiclce, the yellow wagtail, 
the monk ; also in the nests of the braunelle, the robin, and 
the wren. This we know. We also know that these are 
all insect- eating birds ; and must be so, because the cuckoo 
itself is an insect-eating bird, and the young cnckoo cannot 



1827.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 297 

be brought up by a seed- eating bird. But how does the 
cuckoo find out that these are all actually insect-eating 
birds ? For all the above-mentioned birds differ extremely 
from each other, both in form and colour ; and also in their 
song and their call-note. Further, how comes it that the 
cuckoo can trust its egg and its tender young to nests which 
are as different a,s possible with respect to structure, tem- 
perature, dryness, and moisture ? The nest of the gras- 
vrmcke is built so lightly, with dry hay and horse-hair, that all 
cold penetrates into it, and every breeze blows through it ; it 
is also open at the top, and without shelter ; still, the young 
cuckoo thrives in it excellently. The nest of the wren, on 
the other hand, is on the outside built firmly and thickly, 
with moss, straw, and leaves, and carefully lined within 
with all sorts of wool and feathers ; so that not a breeze 
can pierce through it. It is also covered at the top, and 
arched over, only a small aperture being left for the 
very small birds to slip in and out. One would think that 
in the hot days of June, the heat in such an enclosed hole 
must be suffocating ; but the young cuckoo thrives there 
best. Then how different is the nest of the yellow- wagtail. 
This bird lives by the water, by brooks, and in various 
damp places. It builds its nest upon damp commons, in a 
tuft of rushes. It scrapes a hole in the moist earth, and 
lines it scantily with some blades of grass, so that the 
young cuckoo is hatched, and must grow up in the damp 
and cold ; and still it thrives excellently. But what a bird 
this must be, to which, at the most tender age, varieties of 
heat and cold, dryness and damp, which would be fatal to 
any other bird, are indifferent. And how does the old 
cuckoo know that they are so, when it is so susceptible to 
damp and cold at an advanced age." 

" This is a mystery," returned Goethe ; " but tell me, if 
you have observed it, how the cuckoo places its egg in the 
nest of the wren, when this has so small an opening that 
she cannot enter, and sit upon it." 

" The cuckoo lays it upon a dry spot," returned I, " and 
takes it to the nest Yvath her beak. I believe, too, that she 
does this not only with the wren's nest, but with every 
other. For the nests of the other insect-eating birds, even 
when they are open at the top, are still so small or so 



298 CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. [1827. 

closely surrounded by twigs, that the great long-tailed cuckoo 
cannot sit upon them. This can well be imagined; but 
how it happens that the cuckoo lays so unusually small an 
egg, nay, so small that it might be the egg of a small in- 
sect-eating bird, is a new riddle which one may silently 
admire without being able to unravel. The egg of the 
cuckoo is only a little larger than that of the grasvrmcke; 
and, indeed, it ought not to be larger, as it has to be 
hatched by the small insect-eating birds. This is good 
and rational ; but that nature, to be wise in a particular 
instance, should deviate from a great pervading law, ac- 
cording to which there exists a certain proportion between 
the size of the egg and that of the bird, from the humming- 
bird to the ostrich, this arbitary proceeding, 1 say, is 
enough to inspire us with astonishment." 

" It certainly astonishes us," said Groethe, "because our 
point of view is too small for us to comprehend it. If more 
were revealed to us, we should probably find that these 
apparent deviations are really within the compass of the 
law. But go on, and tell me something more. Is it known 
how many eggs the cuckoo lays ? " 

" Whoever tried to say anything definite on that point 
would be a great blockhead. The bird is very fleeting. 
She is now here, now there ; there is never more than one 
of her eggs found in a single nest. She certainly lays 
several ; but who knows where these are, and who could 
look for them? But, supposing that she lays five eggs, 
and that all these are properly hatched, and brought up by 
affectionate foster-parents, we must still wonder that 
nature can resolve to sacrifice at least fifty of the young 
of our best singing birds for five young cuckoos. 

" In such things, as well as others," returned Goethe, 
" nature does not appear to be very scrupulous. She has 
a good fund of life to lavish, and she does so now and then 
without much hesitation. But how does it happen that so 
many young singing birds are lost for a single young 
cuckoo ? " 

"In-the first place," I replied, "the first brood is gener- 
ally lost ; for even if it should happen that the eggs of the 
singing bird are hatched at the same time with that of the 
cuckoo, which is very probable, the parents are so much 



i8r/.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



299 



delighted with the larger bird, and show it such fondness, 
that they think of and feed that alone, whilst their own 
yonng are neglected, and vanish from the nest. Besides, 
the yonng cuckoo is always greedy, and demands as much 
nourishment as the little insect-eating birds can procure. 
It is a very long time before it attains its full size and 
plumage, and before it is capable of leaving the nest, and 
soaring to the top of a tree. And even long after it has 
flown it requires to be fed continually, so that the whole 
summer passes away, while the affectionate foster-parents 
constantly attend upon their great child, and do not think 
of a second brood. It is on this account that a single 
young cuckoo causes the loss of so many other young 
birds." 

"That is very convincing," said Goethe. " But tell me, 
is the young cuckoo, as soon as it has flown, fed also by 
other birds which have not hatched it ? I fancy I have 
heard something of the kind." 

"It is so," answered I. "As soon as the young cuckoo 
has left its lower nest, and has taken its seat on the top of 
a tall oak, it utters a loud sound, which says that it is 
there. Then all the small birds in tho neighbourhood, 
which have heard it, come up to greet it. The grasnmcke 
and the monk come, the yellow wagtail flies up, and even 
the wren, whose nature it is constantly to slip into low hedges 
and thick bushes, conquers its nature, and rises towards the 
beloved stranger to the top of the tall oak. But the pair 
which has reared it is more constant with food, whilst 
the rest only occasionally fly to it with a choice morsel." 

" There also appears to be," said Groethe, " a great 
affection between the young cuckoo and the small insect- 
eating birds." 

" The affection of the small insect-eating birds for the 
young cuckoo," returned I, "is so great, that if one 
approaches a nest in which there is a young cuckoo, the 
little foster-parents do not know how to contain themselves 
for terror or anxiety. The monk especially expresses the 
deepest despair, and flutters on the ground almost as if it 
were in convulsions." 

" This is wonderful enough," returned Goethe ; " but it 
can be readily conceived. Still it appear^ very problem- 



300 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



['8*7- 



atical to me, that a pair of grasmiiclcen, for instance, on 
the point of hatching their own eggs, should allow the old 
cuckoo to approach their nest, and lay her egg in it." 

" That is truly very enigmatical," returned I ; " but not 
quite inexplicable. For, from the very circumstance that 
all small insect-eating birds feed the cuckoo after it has 
flown, and that even those feed it which did not hatch it ; 
from this circumstance, I say, arises a sort of affinity be- 
tween the two, so that they continue to know each other, 
and to consider each other members of one large family. 
Indeed, it may happen that the same cuckoo which was 
hatched and reared by a pair of (jrasmilchen last year, may 
this year bring her egg to them." 

" There is something in that," returned Goethe, " little 
as one can comprehend it. But it still appears to me a 
wonder, that the young cuckoo is fed by those birds which 
have neither hatched it nor reared it." 

" That is, indeed, a wonder," returned I ; " but still it 
is not without analogy. I foresee, in this inclination, a 
great law which pervades all nature. 

" I had once caught a young linnet, which was too big 
to be fed by man, but still too young to eat by itself. I 
took a great deal of trouble about it for half a day ; but as 
it would not eat anything at all, I placed it with an old 
linnet, a good singer, which I had kept for some time in a 
cage, and which hung outside my window. 1 thought to my- 
self, if the young bird sees how the old one eats, perhaps it 
will go to its food and imitate it. However, it did not do so, 
but opened its beak towards the old one, and fluttered its 
wings, uttering a beseeching cry ; whereupon the old linnet 
at once took compassion on it, and adopting it as a child, 
fed it as if it had been its own. 

"Afterwards, some one brought me a grey grasmucJce 
and three young ones, which I put together in a large cage, 
and which the old one fed. On the following day, some 
one brought me two young nightingales already fledged, 
which I put in with the yrasmucke, and which the mother 
bird likewise adopted and fed. Some days afterwards, I 
added a nest of young miillerchen nearly fledged, and then 
a nest with five young plaUmonclien. The grasmuclce 
adopted all these and fed them, and tended them like a true 



I82 7 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



301 



mother. She had her beak always full of ant's eggs, and 
was now in one corner of the roomy cage, and uoav in the 
other, so that whenever a hungry throat opened, there she 
was. Nay, still more. One of the young <j rasmiiclcen, 
which had grown up in the mean time, began to feed some 
of the less ones. This was, indeed, done in rather a play- 
ful, childish manner ; but still with a decided inclination 
to imitate the excellent mother." 

"There is certainly something divine in this," said 
Goethe, " which creates in me a pleasing sense of wonder. 
If it were a fact that this feeding by strangers was an uni- 
versal law of nature, it would unravel many enigmas, and 
one could say with certainty, that God pities the deserted 
young ravens that call upon him." 

" It certainly appears to be an universal law," returned 
I ; " for I have observed this assistance in feeding, and this 
pity for the forlorn, even in a wild state. 

" Last summer, in the neighbourhood of Tiefurt, I took 
two young wrens, which had probably only just left their 
nest, for they sat upon a bush on a twig with seven other 
young ones in a row, and the old bird was feeding them. I 
put the young birds in my silk pocket-handkerchief, and 
went towards Weimar, as far as the shooting house ; I 
then turned to the right towards the meadow, down along 
the Ilm, and passed the bathing-place, and then again to the 
left to the little wood. Here I thought I had a quiet spot 
to look once more at the wrens. But when I opened my 
handkerchief they both slipped out, and disappeared in the 
bushes and grass, so that I sought them in vain. Three 
days afterwards, I returned by chance to the same place, 
and hearing the note of a robin, guessed there was a nest in 
the neighbourhood, which, after looking about for some 
time, I really found. But how great was my astonishment, 
when I saw in this nest, besides some young robins nearly 
fledged, my two young wrens, which had established them- 
selves very comfortably, and allowed themselves to be fed 
by the old robins. I was highly delighted at this very 
remarkable discovery. Since you are so cunning, thought 
I to myself, and have managed to help yourselves so 
nicely, and since the good robins have taken such care of 
you, I should be very sorry to destroy this hospitable 



302 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1827. 



intimacy ; on the contrary, I wish you the greatest possible 
prosperity." 

" That is one of the best ornithological stories I have ever 
heard," said Goethe. "I drink success to you, and good 
luck to your investigations. Whoever hears that, and does 
not believe in God, will not be aided by Moses and the 
prophets. That is what I call the omnipresence of the 
Deity, who has everywhere spread and implanted a portion 
of his endless love, and has intimated even in the brute as 
a germ, that which only blossoms to perfection in noble 
man. Continue your observations and your studies ! You 
appear to be particularly successful with them, and may 
arrive at invaluable results." 

Whilst we thus conversed on good and deep matters over 
our dinner in the open air, the sun had declined towards 
the summit of the western hills, and Goethe thought it 
time to retrace our steps. We drove quickly through Jena, 
and after we had settled our account at " The Bear," and 
had paid a short visit to Frommann, we drove at a rapid 
rate to Weimar. 

(Sup.) Thurs., Oct. 18. — Hegel is here, whom Goethe 
personally esteems very highly, though he does not much 
relish some of the fruits produced by his philosophy. 
Goethe gave a tea-party in honour of him this evening, at 
which Zelter was also present, who intended to take his 
departure again to-night. 

A great deal was said about Hamann, with respect to 
whom Hegel was chief spokesman, displaying a deep 
insight into this extraordinary mind, such as could only 
have arisen from a most earnest and scrupulous study of 
the subject. 

The discourse then turned upon the nature of dialectics. 
"They are, in fact," said Hegel, "nothing more than the 
regulated, methodically-cultivated spirit of contradiction 
which is innate in all men, and which shows itself great as 
a talent in the distinction between the true and the false." 

"Let us only hope," interposed Goethe, "that these 
intellectual arts and dexterities are not frequently misused, 
and employed to make the false true, and the true false." 

"That certainly happens," returned Hegel ; "but only 
with people who are mentally diseased." 



1828.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 303 

"I therefore congratulate myself," said Goethe, "upon 
the study of nature, which preserves me from such a 
disease. For here we have to deal with the infinitely and 
eternally true, which throws off: as incapable every one who 
does not proceed purely and honestly with the treatment 
and observation of his subject. I am also certain that 
many a dialectic disease would find a wholesome remedy in 
the study of nature." 

"We were still discoursing in the most cheerful manner, 
when Zelter arose and went out, without saying a word. 
We knew that it grieved him to take leave of Goethe, 
and that he chose this delicate expedient for avoiding a 
nainful moment. 



1828. 

(Sup.) Tues., March 11. — For several weeks I have not 
been quite well. I sleep badly, and have the most 
harassing dreams from night to morning, in which I see 
myself in the most various states, carry on all sorts of 
conversation with known and unknown persons, get into 
disputes and quarrels, and all this in such a vivid manner, 
that I am perfectly conscious of every particular next 
morning. But this dreamy life consumes the powers of my 
brain, so that I feel weak and unnerved in the day-time, 
and without thought or pleasure for any intellectual activity. 

I had frequently complained of my condition to Goethe, 
and he had repeatedly urged me to consult my physician. 
"Your malady," said he, "is certainly not very serious; 
it is probably nothing but a little stagnation, which a glass 
or two of mineral water or a little salts would remove. 
But do not let it linger any longer ; attack it at once." 

Goethe may have been right, and I said to myself that 
he was right ; but my indecision and disinclination operated 
in this case, so that I again allowed many restless nights 
and wretched days to pass, Avithout making the least effort 
to remove the indisposition. 

As I did not appear to Goethe very gay and cheerful to- 
day after dinner, he lost his patience, and could not refrain 
from smiling at me ironically, and bantering me a little. 



304 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



"You are a second Shandy," said lie, "the father of 
that renowned Tristram, who was annoyed half his life 
by a creaking door, and who could not come to the resolu- 
tion of removing the daily annoyance with a few drops 
of oil. 

" But so it is with us all ! The darkness and enlighten- 
ment of man make his destiny. The demon ought to lead 
us every day in leading strings, and tell us and direct us 
what we ought to do on every occasion. But the good 
spirit leaves us in the lurch, and we grope about in the dark. 

" Napoleon was the man ! Always enlightened, always 
clear and decided, and endowed at every hour with 
sufficient energy to carry into effect whatever he considered 
advantageous and necessary. His life was the stride of a 
demi-god, from battle to battle, and from victory to victory. 
It might well be said of him, that he was found in a state 
of continual enlightenment. On this account, his destiny 
was more brilliant than any the world had seen before 
him, or perhaps will ever see after him. 

" Yes, yes, my good friend, that was a fellow whom we 
cannot imitate." 

Goethe paced up and down the room. I had placed my- 
self at the table, which had been already cleared, but upon 
which there was left some wine with some biscuits and 
fruit. Goethe filled for me, and compelled me to partake 
of both. "You have, indeed," said he, " not condescended 
to be our guest at dinner to-day, but still a glass of this 
present from good friends ought to do you good." 

I did not refuse these good things, and Goethe continued 
to walk up and down the room, murmuring to himself in 
an excited state of mind, and from time to time uttering 
unintelligible words. 

What he had just said about Napoleon was in my mind, 
and I endeavoured to lead the conversation back to that 
subject. "Still it appears to me," I began, "that 
Napoleon was especially in that state of continued en- 
lightenment when he was young, and his powers were yet 
on the increase, — when, indeed, we see at his side divine 
protection and a constant fortune. In later years, on the 
contrary, this enlightenment appears to have forsaken him, 
as well as his fortune and his good star." 



1828.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. S0£ 

"What would you have?" returned Goethe. "I did 
not write my 'love songs,' or my 'Werther,' a second 
time. That divine enlightenment, whence everything pro- 
ceeds, we shall always find in connection with youth and 
productiveness, as in the case of Napoleon, who was one 
of the most productive men that ever lived. 

" Yes, yes, my good friend, one need not write poems 
and plays to be productive ; there is also a productiveness 
of deeds, which in many cases stands an important degree 
higher. The physician himself must be productive, if he 
really intends to heal ; if he is not so, he will only succeed 
now and then, as if by chance ; but, on the whole, he will 
be only a bungler." 

"You appear," added I, "in this case, to call productive- 
ness that which is usually called genius." 

" One lies very near the other," returned Goethe. " For 
what is genius but that productive power by which deeds 
arise that can display themselves before God and nature 1 , 
and are therefore permanent, and produce results. All 
Mozart's works are of this kind ; there lies in them a pro- 
ductive power which operates upon generation after genera- 
tion, and still is not wasted or consumed. 

" It is the same with other great composers and artists. 
What an influence have Phidias and Raphael had upon 
succeeding centuries, and Diirer and Holbein also. He 
who first invented the forms and proportions of the old 
German architecture, so that in the course of time a 
Strasburg minster and a cathedral of Cologne were 
possible, was also a genius ; for his thoughts have a power 
continually productive, and operate even to the present 
hour. Luther was a genius of a very important kind ; he 
has already gone on with influence for many a long day, 
and we cannot count the days when he will cease to be 
productive in future ages. Lessing would not allow him- 
self the lofty title of a genius ; but his permanent influence 
bears witness against him. On the other hand, we have, 
in literature, other names, and those of importance, the 
possessors of which, whilst they lived, were deemed great 
geniuses, but whose influence ended with their life, and 
who were therefore less than they and others thought. 
For, as I said before, there is no genius without a pro- 

x 



306 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



ductive power o£ permanent influence ; and furthermore, 
genius does not depend upon the business, the art, or the 
trade which one follows, but may be alike in all. Whether 
one shows oneself a man of genius in science, like Oken 
and Humboldt, or in war and statesmanship, like Frederick, 
Peter the Great, and Napoleon, or whether one composes a 
song like Beranger, it all comes to the same thing ; the 
only point is, whether the thought, the discovery, the deed, 
is living, and can live on. 

" Then I must add, it is not the mass of creations and 
deeds which proceed from a person, that indicates the pro- 
ductive man. We have, in literature, poets who are con- 
sidered very productive, because volume after volume of 
their poems has appeared. But, in my opinion, these 
people ought to be called thoroughly unproductive ; for 
what they have written is without life and durability. 
Goldsmith, on the contrary, has written so few poems that 
their number is not worth mentioning ; but, nevertheless, I 
must pronounce him to be a thoroughly productive poet, 
and, indeed, even on that account, because the little that 
he has written has an inherent life which can sustain 
itself." 

A pause ensued, during which Goethe continued to pace 
up and down the room. In the mean time, I was desirous 
of hearing something more on this weighty point, and 
therefore endeavoured to arouse Goethe once more. 

"Does this productiveness of genius," said I, "lie 
merely in the mind of an important man, or does it also 
lie in the body ? " 

" The body has, at least," said Goethe, " the greatest 
influence upon it. There was indeed a time when, in 
Germany, a genius was always thought of as short, weak, 
or hunch-backed ; but commend me to a genius who has a 
well-proportioned body. 

" When it was said of Napoleon that he was a man of 
granite, this applied particularly to his body. What was 
it, then, which he could not and did not venture ? From 
the burning sands of the Syrian deserts, to the snowy 
plains of Moscow, what an incalculable amount of marches, 
battles, and nightly bivouacs did he go through ? And 
what fatigues and bodily privations was he forced to 



1828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



307 



endure ? Little sleep, little nourishment, and yet always 
in the highest mental activity. After the awful exertion 
and excitement of the eighteenth Brumaire, it was mid- 
night, and he had not tasted anything during the whole 
day, and yet, without thinking of strengthening his body, 
he felt power enough in the depth of the night to draw up 
the well-known proclamation to the French people. When 
one considers what he accomplished and endured, one might 
imagine that when he was in his fortieth year not a Bound 
particle was left in him ; but even at that age he still 
occupied the position of a perfect hero. 

" But you are quite right : the real focus of his lustre 
belongs to his youth. And it is something to say that one 
of obscure origin, and at a time which set all capacities in 
motion, so distinguished himself as to become, in his seven- 
and-twentieth year, the idol of a nation of thirty millions ! 
Yes, yes, my good friend, one must be young to do great 
things. And Napoleon is not the only one ! ' 

" His brother Lucien," remarked I, " also did a great 
deal at an early age. We see him as president of the five 
hundred, and afterwards as minister of the interior, when 
he had scarcely completed his five-and-twentieth year." 

" Why name Lucien ? " interposed Goethe. " History 
presents to us hundreds of clever people, who, whilst still 
young, have, both in the cabinet and in the field, 
superintended the most important matters with great 
renown. 

" If I were a prince," continued he, with animation, " I 
would never place in the highest offices people who have 
gradually risen by mere birth and seniority, and who in 
their old age move on leisurely in their accustomed track, 
for in this way but little talent is brought to light. I would 
have young men ; but they must have capacities, and be 
endowed with clearness and energy, and also with the best 
will and the noblest character. Then there would be 
pleasure in governing and improving one's people. But 
where is there a prince who would like this, and who 
would be so well served ? 

" 1 have great hopes of the present Crown Prince of 
Prussia. From all that I hear and know of him, he is a 
very distinguished man ; and this is essential to recognize 

x2 



308 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



and choose qualified and clever people. For, say what we 
will, like can only be recognized by like ; and only a prince 
who himself possesses great abilities can properly acknow- 
ledge and value great abilities in his subjects and servants. 
' Let the path be open to talent ' was the well-known maxim 
of Napoleon, who really had a particular tact in the choice 
of his people, who knew how to place every important 
power where it appeared in its proper sphere, and who, 
therefore, during his lifetime, was served in all his great 
undertakings as scarcely any one was served before him." 

Goethe delighted me particularly this evening. The 
noblest part of his nature appeared alive in him, while the 
sound of his voice and the fire of his eyes were of such 
power, as if he were inspired by a fresh gleam of the best 
days of youth. 

It was remarkable to me that he, who at so great an age 
himself superintended an important post, should speak so 
decidedly in favour of youth, and should desire the first 
offices in the state to be filled, if not by youths, at least by 
men still young. I could not forbear mentioning some 
Germans of high standing, who at an advanced age did not 
appear to want the necessary energy and youthful activity 
for the direction of the most important and most various 
affairs. 

" Such men are natural geniuses," returned Goethe, 
" whose case is peculiar ; they experience a renewed puberty, 
whilst other people are young but once. 

" Every Entelechia * is a piece of eternity, and the few 
years during which it is bound to the earthly body does not 
make it old. If this Entelechia is of a trivial kind, it will 
exercise but little sway during its bodily confinement ; on 
the contrary, the body will predominate, and when this 
grows old the Entelechia will not hold and restrain it. But 
if the 'Entelechia is of a powerful kind, as is the case with 
all men of natural genius, then with its animating penetra- 
tion of the body it will not only act with strengthening and 
ennobling power upon the organization, but it will also 
endeavour with its spiritual superiority to confer the 

* If for this Aristotelian word the reader substitutes the popular 
expression " soul," he will not go far wrong as far as this passage is 
concerned. — Trans. 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



309 



privilege of perpetual youth. Thence it comes that in 
men of superior endowments, even during their old age, we 
constantly perceive fresh epochs of singular productiveness ; 
they seem constantly to grow young again for a time, and 
that is what I call a repeated puberty. Still youth is youth, 
and however powerful an Entelechia may prove, it will 
never become quite master of the corporeal, and it makes a 
wonderful difference whether it finds in the body an ally or 
an adversary. 

" There was a time in my life when I had to famish a 
printed sheet every day, and I accomplished it with facility. 
I wrote my " Geschwister " (Brother and Sister) in three 
days ; my " Clavigo," as you know, in a week. Now it 
seems I can do nothing of the kind, and still I can by no 
means complain of want of productiveness even at my 
advanced age. But whereas in my youth I succeeded daily 
and under all circumstances, I now succeed only periodically 
and under certain favourable conditions. When ten or 
twelve years ago, in the happy time after the war of 
independence, the poems of the " Divan " had me in their 
power, I was often productive enough to compose two or 
three in a day, and it was all the same to me whether 
1 was in the open air, in the chariot, or in an inn. Now, I 
can only work at the second part of my "Faust" during 
the early part of the day, when I feel refreshed and 
revived by sleep, and have not been perplexed by the trifles 
of daily life. And, after all, what is it I achieve ? Under 
the most favourable circumstances, a page of writing, but 
generally only so much as one could write in the space of 
a hand-breadth, and often, when in an unproductive humour, 
still less." 

"Are there, then, no means," said I, "to call forth a 
productive mood, or, if it is not powerful enough, of in- 
creasing it ? " 

" That is a curious point," said Goethe, " and a great 
deal might be thought and talked about it. 

"No productiveness. of the highest kind, no remarkable 
discovery, no great thought which bears fruit and has 
results, is in the power of any one ; but such things are 
elevated above all earthly control. Man must consider them 
as an unexpected gift from above, as pure children of God, 



310 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1S28. 



which he must receive and venerate with joyful thanks. 
They are akin to the demon, which does with him what 
it pleases, and to which he nnconscionsly resigns himself, 
whilst he believes he is acting from his own impnlse. 
In such cases, man may often be considered as an instru- 
ment in a higher government of the world, — as a vessel 
found worthy for the reception of a divine influence. I 
say this, whilst I consider how often a single thought 
has given a different form to whole centuries, and how 
individual men have, by their expressions, imprinted a 
stamp upon their age, which has remained uneffaced, and 
has operated beneficially upon succeeding generations. 

" There is, however, a productiveness of another kind 
subjected to earthly influences, and which man has more in 
his power, although he here also finds cause to bow before 
something divine. Under this category I place all that 
appertains to the execution of a plan, all the links of a 
chain of thought, the ends of which already shine forth ; T 
also place there all that constitutes the visible body of a 
work of art. 

"Thus, Shakspcare was inspired with the first thought 
of his Hamlet, when the spirit of the whole presented itself 
to his mind as an unexpected impression, and he surveyed 
the several situations, characters, and conclusion, in an 
elevated mood, as a pure gift from above, on which he had no 
immediate influence, although the possibility of conceiving 
such a thought certainly presupposed a mind such as his. 
But the individual scenes, and the dialogue of the 
characters, he had completely in his power, so that he 
might produce them daily and hourly, and work at them 
for weeks if he liked. And, indeed, we see in all that 
he has achieved, constantly the same power of production ; 
and in all his plays we never come to a passage of 
which it could be said ' this was not written in the 
proper humour, or with the most perfect faculty.' Whilst 
we read him, we receive the impression of a man thoroughly 
strong and healthy, both in mind and body. 

" Supposing, however, that the bodily constitution of a 
dramatic poet were not so strong and excellent, and that he 
were, on the contrary, subject to frequent illness and weak- 
ness, the productiveness necessary for the daily construction 



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CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



311 



of liis scenes would very frequently cease, and would 
often fail him for whole days. If now, by some spirituous 
drink, he tried to force his failing productiveness, and 
supply its deficiencies, the method would certainly answer, 
but it would be discoverable in all the scenes which he had 
written under such an influence, to their great disadvantage. 
My counsel is, therefore, to force nothing, and rather to 
trifle and sleep away all unproductive days and hours, than 
on such days to compose something which will afterwards 
give one no pleasure." 

"You express," returned I, "what I myself have very 
often experienced and felt, and what one must respect as 
thoroughly true and just. But still it appears to me that a 
person might, by natural means, heighten his productive 
mood, without exactly forcing it. It has often been the 
case in my lif e to be unable to arrive at any right conclusion 
in certain complicated circumstances. But if, in such a 
case, I have drunk a few glasses of wine, I have at once 
seen clearly what was to be done, and have come to a 
resolution on the spot. The adoption of a resolution is, 
after all, a species of productiveness, and if a glass or two 
of wine will bring about this good effect, such means are 
surely not to be rejected altogether." 

" I will not contradict your remark," returned Goethe ; 
" but what I said before is also correct, by which you see 
that truth may be compared to a diamond, the rays of 
which dart not to one side, but to many. Since you know 
my ' Divan ' so well, you know also that I myself have 
said — 

"When, we have drunk 
We know what's right ; 

and therefore that I perfectly agree with you. Productive- 
making powers of a very important kind certainly are con- 
tained in wine ; but still, all depends upon time and circum- 
stances, and what is useful to one is prejudicial to another. 
Productive-making powers are also contained in sleep and 
repose; but they are also contained in movement. Such 
powers lie in the water, and particularly in the atmosphere. 
The fresh air of the open country is the proper place to 
which we belong ; it is as if the breath of God were there 
wafted immediately to men, and a divine power exerted its 



312 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



influence. Lord Bp\m, who daily passed several hours in 
the open air, now riding on horseback along the sea-shore, 
now sailing or rowing in a boat, now bathing in the sea, 
and exercising his physical powers in swimming, was one of 
the most productive men who ever lived." 

Goethe had seated himself opposite to me, and we spoke 
about all sorts of subjects. Then we again dwelt upon 
Lord Byron, and touched upon the many misfortunes which 
had embittered his later life, until at last a noble will, but 
an unhappy destiny, drove him into Greece, and entirely 
destroyed him. 

"You will generally find," continued Goethe, "that in 
his middle age a man frequently experiences a change ; and 
that, while in his youth everything has favoured him, and 
has prospered with him, all is now completely reversed, 
and misfortunes and disasters are heaped one upon another. 

" But do you know my opinion on this matter ? Man 
must be ruined again! Every extraordinary man has a 
certain mission which he is called upon to accomplish. If 
he has fulfilled it, he is no longer needed upon earth in 
the same form, and Providence uses him for something 
else. But as everything here below happens in a natural 
way, the demons keep tripping him up till he falls at last. 
Thus it was with Napoleon and many others. Mozart 
died in his six-and-thirtieth year. Raphael at the same age. 
Byron only a little older. But all these had perfectly 
fulfilled their missions, and it was time for them to depart, 
that other people might still have something to do in a 
world made to last a long while." 

It was now late ; Goethe gave me his dear hand, and 
I departed. 

(Sup.) Wed., March 12. — After I had quitted Goethe 
yesterday evening, the important conversation I had carried 
on with him remained constantly in my mind. The dis- 
course had also been upon the sea and sea air ; and Goethe 
had expressed the opinion, that he considered all islanders 
and inhabitants of the sea-shore in temperate climates far 
more productive, and possessed of more active force, than 
the people in the interior of large continents. 

Whether or not it was that I had fallen asleep with these 
thoughts, and with a certain longing for the inspiring 



1828. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



313 



powers of the sea ; suffice it to say, I had in the night the 
following pleasant, and to me very remarkable, dream : — 

I saw myself in an unknown region, amongst strange 
men, thoroughly cheerful and happy. The most beautiful 
summer day surrounded me in a charming scene, such as 
might be witnessed somewhere on the shores of the 
Mediterranean, in the south of Spain or France, or in the 
neighbourhood of Genoa. We had been drinking at noon 
round a merry table, and I went with some others, rather 
young people, to make another party for the afternoon. 

We had loitered along through bushy and pleasant low 
lands, when we suddenly found ourselves in the sea, upon 
the smallest of islands, on a jutting rock, where there was 
scarcely room for five or six men, and where one could not 
stir for fear of slipping into the water. Behind us, whence 
we had come, there was nothing to be seen but sea ; but 
before us lay the shore at about a quarter of an hour's 
distance, spread out most invitingly. The shore was in 
some places flat, in others rocky and somewhat elevated ; 
and one might observe, between green leaves and white 
tents, a crowd of joyous men in light- coloured clothes, 
recreating themselves with music, which sounded from the 
tents. " There is nothing else to be done," said one of us 
to the other, " we must undress and swim over." "It is 
all very well to say so," said I, "you are young, handsome 
fellows, and good swimmers ; but I swim badly, and I do 
not possess a shape fine enough to appear, with pleasure 
and comfort, before the strange people on shore." "You 
are a fool," said one of the handsomest, "undress your- 
self, give me your form, and you shall have mine." At 
these words I undressed myself quickly, and was soon in 
the water, and immediately found myself in the body of 
the other as a powerful swimmer. I soon reached the 
shore, and, naked and dripping, stepped with the most 
easy confidence amongst the men. I was happy in the 
sensation of these fine limbs ; my deportment was uncon- 
strained, and I at once became intimate with the strangers, 
at a table before an arbour, where there was a great deal 
of mirth. My comrades had now reached land one by 
one, and had joined us, and the only one missing was 
the youth with my form, in whose limbs I found myself 



314 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [l8z8. 

so comfortable. At last lie also approached tlie shore, 
and I was asked if I was not glad to see my former 
self? At these words I experienced a certain discomfort, 
partly because I did not expect any great joy from my- 
self, and partly becanse I feared that my young friend 
would ask for his own body back again. However, I 
turned to the water, and saw my second self swimming 
close up to me, and laughing at me with his head turned 
a little on one side. " There is no swimming with thoso 
limbs of yours," exclaimed he, " I have had a fine 
struggle against waves and breakers, and it is not to be 
wonderecl at that I have come so late, and am last of 
all." I at once recognized the countenance; it was my 
own, but grown young, and rather fuller and broader, 
with the freshest complexion. He now came to land, and 
whilst he raised himself, and first stepped along the sand, 
I had a view of his back and legs, and was delighted 
with the perfection of the form. He came up the rocky 
shore to us, and as he came up to me he had completely 
my new stature. " How is it," thought I to myself, 
"that your little body has grown so handsome. Have 
the primeval powers of the sea operated so wonderfully 
upon it, or is it because the youthful spirit of my friend 
has penetrated the limbs ? " Whilst we enjoyed ourselves 
together for some time, I silently wondered that my 
friend did not show any inclination to resume his own 
body. "Truly," thought I, "he looks bravely, and it 
may be a matter of indifference to him in which body 
he is placed, but it is not the same thing to me ; for I 
am not sure whether in that body I may not shrink and 
become as diminutive as before." In order to satisfy 
myself on this point, I took my friend aside, and asked 
him how he felt in my limbs ? " Perfectly well," said 
he ; "I have the same sensation of my own natural 
power as before ; I do not know what you have to com- 
plain of in your limbs. They are quite right with me; 
and you see one only has to make the best of oneself. 
Remain in my body as long as you please ; for I am 
perfectly contented to remain in yours through all futurity." 
I was much pleased by this explanation, and as in all my 
sensations, thoughts, and recollections, 1 felt quite as usual, 



1828.] 



CONVERSATION'S OF GOETItE. 



my dream gave me the impression of a perfect independ- 
ence of the soul, and the possibility of a future existence 
in another body. 

" That is a very pretty dream," said Goethe, when, 
after dinner to-day, I imparted to him the principal features. 
"We see," continued he, "that the muses visit you even 
in sleep, and, indeed, with particular favour ; for you must 
confess that it would be difficult for you to invent any- 
thing so peculiar and pretty in your waking moments." 

" I can scarcely conceive how it happened to me," re- 
turned I ; " for I had felt so dejected all day, that the con- 
templation of so fresh a life was far from my mind." 

" Human nature possesses wonderful powers," returned 
Goethe, "and has something good in readiness for us when 
we least hope for it. There have been times in my life 
when I have fallen asleep in tears ; but in my dreams 
the most charming forms have come to console and to 
cheer me, and I have risen the next morning fresh and 
joyful. 

" There is something more or less wrong among us old 
Europeans ; our relations are far too artificial and compli- 
cated, our nutriment and mode of life are without their 
proper nature, and our social intercourse is without proper 
love and goodwill. Every one is polished and courteous; 
but no one has the courage to be hearty and true, so 
that an honest man, with natural views and feelings, stands 
in a very bad position. Often one cannot help wishing 
that one had been born upon one of the South Sea Islands, 
a so-called savage, so as to have thoroughly enjoyed human 
existence in all its purity, without any adulteration. 

" If in a depressed mood one reflects deeply upon the 
wretchedness of our age, it often occurs to one that the 
world is gradually approaching the last day. And the 
evil accumulates from generation to generation ! For it 
is not enough that we have to suffer for the sins of our 
fathers, but we hand down to posterity these inherited 
vices increased by our own." 

" Similar thoughts often occur to me," answered I ; "but 
if, at such a time, I see a regiment of German dragoons 
ride by me, and observe the beauty and power of these 
young people, I again derive some consolation, and say to 



316 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



myself, that the durability of mankind is after all not in 
such a desperate plight." 

" Our country people," returned Goethe, "have certainly 
kept up their strength, and will, I hope, long be able not 
only to furnish us with good horsemen, but also to secure 
us from total decay and destruction. The rural population 
may be regarded as a magazine, from which the forces of 
declining mankind are always recruited and refreshed. 
But just go into our great towns, and you will feel quite 
differently. Just take a turn by the side of a second 
(liable boiteux, or a physician with a large practice, and 
he will whisper to you tales which will horrify you at the 
misery, and astonish you at the vice with which human 
nature is visited, and from which society suffers. 

" But let us banish these hypochondriacal thoughts. 
How are you going on ? What are you doing ? What 
else have you seen to-day ? Tell me, and inspire me with 
good thoughts." 

"I have been reading Sterne," returned I, "where 
Yorick is sauntering about the streets of Paris, and makes 
the remark that every tenth man is a dwarf. I thought 
of that when you mentioned the vices of great towns. I 
also remember to have seen, in Napoleon's time, among 
the French infantry, one battalion wnich consisted entirely 
of Parisians, who were all such puny, diminutive people, 
that one could not comprehend what could be done with 
them in battle." 

" The Scotch Highlanders under the Duke of Welling- 
ton," rejoined Goethe, " were doubtless heroes of another 
description." 

" I saw them in Brussels a year before the battle of 
Waterloo," returned I. " They were, indeed, fine men ; all 
strong, fresh, and active, as if just from the hand of then 
Maker. They all carried their heads so freely and gallantly, 
and stepped so lightly along with their strong bare legs, 
that it seemed as if there were no original sin, and no 
ancestral failing, as far as they were concerned." 

" There is something peculiar in this," said Goethe. 
"Whether it lies in the race, in the soil, in the free political 
constitution, or in the healthy tone of education, — certainly, 
the English in general appear to have certain advantages over 



1827.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



317 



many others. Here in Weimar, we see only a few of them, 
and, probably, by no means the best ; bnt what fine, 
handsome people they are. And however yonng they come 
here, they feel themselves by no means strange or em- 
barrassed in this foreign atmosphere ; on the contrary, their 
deportment in society is as full of confidence, and as easy 
as if they were lords everywhere, and the whole world 
belonged to them. This it is which pleases onr women, 
and by which they make such havoc in the hearts of our 
young ladies. As a German father of a family, who is 
concerned for the tranquillity of his household, I often 
feel a slight shudder, when my daughter-in-law announces 
to me the expected arrival of some fresh, young islander. 
I already see in my mind's eye, the tears which will one 
day flow when he takes his departure. They are dangerous 
young people ; but this very quality of being dangerous 
is their virtue." 

" Still, I would not assert," answered I, " that the young 
Englishmen in Weimar are more clever, more intelligent, 
better informed, or more excellent at heart than other 
people." 

"The secret does not lie in these things, my good 
friend," returned Goethe. " Neither does it lie in birth 
and riches ; it lies in the courage which they have to be 
that for which nature has made them. There is nothing 
vitiated or spoilt about them, there is nothing half- 
way or crooked ; but such as they are, they are thoroughly 
complete men. That they are also sometimes complete 
fools, I allow with all my heart ; but that is still something, 
and has still always some weight in the scale of nature. 

" The happiness of personal freedom, the consciousness 
of an English name, and of the importance attached to 
it by other nations, is an advantage even to the children ; 
for in their own family, as well as in scholastic establish- 
ments, they are treated with far more respect, and enjoy a 
far freer development, than is the case with us Germans. 

" In our own dear Weimar, I need only look out of the 
window to discover how matters stand with us. Lately, 
when the snow was lying upon the ground, and my neigh- 
bour's children were trying their little sledges in the 
street, the police was immediately at hand, and I saw the 



318 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



poor little things fly as quickly as they could. Now. when 
the spring sun tempts them from the houses, and they 
would like to play with their companions before the door, 
I see them always constrained, as if they were not safe, 
and feared the approach of some despot of the police. 
ISTot a boy may crack a whip, or sing or shout ; the police 
is immediately at hand to forbid it. This has the effect 
with us all of taming youth prematurely, and of driving 
out all originality and all wildness, so that in the end 
nothing remains but the Philistine. 

" You know that scarcely a day passes in which I am 
not visited by some travelling foreigner. But if I were to 
say that I took great pleasure, in the personal appearance, 
especially of young, learned Germans from a certain north- 
eastern quarter, I should tell a falsehood. 

" Short-sighted, pale, narrow-chested, young without 
youth ; that is a picture of most of them as they appear 
to me. And if I enter into a conversation with any of 
them, I immediately observe that the things in which one 
of us takes pleasure seem to them vain and trivial, that 
they are entirely absorbed in the Idea, and that only the 
highest problems of speculation are fitted to interest them. 
Of sound senses or delight in the sensual, there is no trace ; 
all youthful feeling and all youthful pleasure are driven 
out of them, and that irrecoverably ; for if a man is not 
young in his twentieth year, how can he be so in his 
fortieth?" 

Goethe sighed and was silent. 

I thought of the happy time in the last century, in which 
Goethe's youth fell ; the summer air of Sesenheim passed 
before my soul, and I reminded him of the verses — 
In the afternoon we sat, 
Young people, in the cool. 
"Ah," sighed Goethe, " those were, indeed, happy times. 
But we will drive them from our minds, that the dark 
foggy days of the present may not become quite insup- 
portable." 

" A second Redeemer," said I, " would be required to 
remove from us the seriousness, the discomfort, and the 
monstrous oppressiveness of the present state of things." 

" If he came," answered Goethe, "he would be crucified 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



319 



a second time. Still, we by no means need anything so 
great. If we could only alter the Germans after the 
model of the English, if we could only have less philosophy 
and more power of action, less theory and more practice, 
we might obtain a good share of redemption, without 
waiting for the personal majesty of a second Christ. 
Much may be done from below by the people by means 
of schools and domestic education ; much from above by 
the rulers and those in immediate connection with them. 

" Thus, for instance, I cannot approve the requisition, in 
the studies of future statesmen, of so much theoretically- 
learned knowledge, by which young people are ruined before 
their time, both in mind and body. When they enter into 
practical service, they possess, indeed, an immense stock of 
philosophical and learned matters ; but in the narrow circle 
of their calling, this cannot be practically applied, and must 
therefore be forgotten as useless. On the other hand, what 
they most needed they have lost ; they are deficient in the 
necessary mental and bodily energy, which is quite indis- 
pensable when one would enter properly into practical life. 

"And then, are not love and benevolence also needed in 
the life of a statesman, — in the management of men ? And 
how can any one feel and exercise benevolence towards 
another, when he is ill at ease with himself ? 

"But all these people are in a dreadfully bad case. The 
third part of the learned men and statesmen, shackled to 
the desk are ruined in body, and consigned to the demon of 
hypochondria. Here there should be action from above, 
that future generations may at least be preserved from a 
like destruction. 

" In the mean time," continued Goethe, smiling, " let u?; 
remain in a state of hopeful expectation as to the condition 
of us Germans a century hence, and whether we shall then 
have advanced so far as to be no longer savants and philo- 
sophers, but men." 

(Sup.*) FrL, May 16. — I took a drive with Goethe. He 
amused himself with recollections of his disputes with 
Kotzebue and Co., and recited some very lively epigrams 
against the former, which were certainly more jocular than 
cutting. I asked him why he had not included them in his 
works. 



320 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



" I have a whole collection of such, little poems," returned 
Goethe, " which I keep secret, and only show occasionally 
to my most intimate friends. This was the only innocent 
weapon which I had at command against the attacks of my 
enemies. I thus quietly found a vent by which I freed and 
purified myself from the horrid feeling of malevolence 
which I must otherwise have felt and fostered against the 
public and often malicious cavillings of my opponents. I 
have, therefore, by these little poems done myself an essen- 
tial and personal service ; but I do not want to occupy the 
public with my private squabbles, or to injure any living 
person. In later times, some of these things may be brought 
out without hesitation." 

(Sup.*) Fri., June 6. — The King of Bavaria, some time 
ago, sent his court painter, Stieler, to Weimar, in order to 
take Goethe's portrait. Stieler brought with him, as a sort 
of letter of introduction, and as a proof of his skill, a 
finished portrait, the size of life, of a very beautiful young 
lady, namely, the young Munich actress, Fraulein von 
Hagen. Goethe gave Stieler all the necessary sittings, and 
his portrait had now been finished for some days. 

To-day, I dined with him alone. At dessert he rose, and 
conducting me into the cabinet adjoining the dining-room, 
showed me Stieler's newly completed work. Then, very 
cautiously, he led me further on into the so-called Majolica 
chamber, where we saw the portrait of the beautiful actress. 
" That is worth something," said he, after we had observed 
it for some time, "is it not ? Stieler was no fool. He 
employed this beautiful morsel as a bait for me, and whilst 
by such arts he induced me to sit, he flattered me with the 
hope that, under his pencil, another angel would appear, 
whilst he was only painting the head of an old man." 

jSW., June 15. — We had not been long at table before 
Herr Seidel was announced, accompanied by the Tyrolese. 
The singers remained in the garden-room, so that we could 
see them perfectly through the open doors, and their song 
was heard to advantage from that distance. Herr Seidel 
sat down with us. These songs and the Gejodelf of the 
cheerful Tyrolese, with their peculiar burden, delighted us 



+ The peculiar Tyrolese burden. — Trans, 



i828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



321 



young people. Fraulein Ulrica and I were particularly 
pleased with the " Stranss," and " Du, du liegst mir im 
Herzen," and asked for a copy of them. Goethe seemed 
by no means so much delighted as we. 

"One must ask children and birds," said he, "how 
cherries and strawberries taste." 

Between the songs the Tyrolese played various national 
dances, on a sort of horizontal guitar, accompanied by a 
clear-toned German flute. 

Young Goethe was called out, but soon returned and 
dismissed the Tyrolese. He sat down with us again. We 
talked of " Oberon," and the great concourse of people who 
had come together from all quarters to see that opera ; so 
that even at noon there were no more tickets to be got. 
Young Goethe proposed that we should leave the table. 

"Dear father," said he, "our friends will wish to go 
somewhat earlier to the theatre this evening." 

Goethe thought such haste very odd, as it was scarcely 
four o'clock ; however, he made no opposition, and we dis- 
persed through the apartments. Seidel came to me and 
some others, and said softly, and with a troubled brow, 

" You need anticipate no pleasure at the theatre ; there 
will be no perf ormance ; the Grand Duke is dead ; he died 
on his journey hither from Berlin." 

A general shock went through the company. Goethe 
came in ; we went on as if nothing had happened, and 
talked of different things. Goethe called me to the window, 
and talked about the Tyrolese and the theatre. 

"You have my box to-day," said he, "and need not go 
till six ; stay after the others, that we may have a little 
chat." 

Young Goethe was trying to send the guests away, that 
he might break the news to his father before the return of 
the Chancellor, who had brought it to him. Goethe could 
not understand his son's strange conduct, and seemed 
annoyed. 

" Will you not stay for coffee ? " said he ; " it is scarcely 
four o'clock." 

The others all departed ; and I, too, took my hat. 
" What ! are you going too ? " said he, astonished. 
" Yes," said young Goethe; " Eckermann has something 

T 



322 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



to do before going to the theatre." "Yes," said I, "I 
have something to do." " Go along, then," said Goethe, 
shaking his head with a suspicious air; "still, I do not 
understand you." 

We went with Fraulein Ulrica into the upper rooms, 
while young Goethe remained below, and communicated 
the sad tidings to his father. 

I saw Goethe late in the evening. Before I entered his 
chamber, I heard him sighing and talking aloud to himself : 
he seemed to feel that an irreparable rent had been torn in 
his existence. All consolation he refused, and would hear 
nothing of the sort. 

" 1 thought," said he, " that I should depart before him ; 
but God disposes as he thinks best ; and all that we poor 
mortals have to do, is to endure and keep ourselves upright 
as well and as long as we can." 

The Dowager Grand Duchess received the melancholy 
news at her summer residence of Wilhelmsthal, the younger 
members of the family received it in Russia. Goethe went 
soon to Dornburg, to withdraw himself from daily saddening 
impressions, and to restore himself by fresh activity in a 
new scene. 

By important literary incitements on the part of the 
French, he had been once more impelled to his theory of 
plants ; and this rural abode, where, at every step into the 
pure air, he was surrounded by the most luxurious vegeta- 
tion, in the shape of twining vines and sprouting flowers, 
was very favourable to such studies. 

I sometimes visited him there, in company with his 
daughter-in-law and grandchildren. He seemed very happy, 
and could not refrain from repeatedly expressing his delight 
at the beautiful situation of the castle and gardens. 

And, indeed, there was, from windows at such a height, 
an enchanting prospect. Beneath was the variegated 
valley, with the Saale meandering through the meadows. 
On the opposite side, toward the east, were woody hills, 
over which the eye could wander afar, so that one felt that 
this situation was, in the day time, favourable to the obser- 
vation of passing showers losing themselves in the distance. 



1828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



323 



and at night to the contemplation of the eastern stars and 
the rising sun. 

"I enjoy here," said Goethe, "both good days and good 
nights. Often before dawn I am already awake, and lie 
down by the open window, to enjoy the splendour of the 
three planets, which are at present to be seen together, and 
to refresh myself with the increasing brilliancy of the 
morning-red. I then pass almost the whole day in the open 
air, and hold spiritual communion with the tendrils of the 
vine, which say good things to me, and of which I could 
tell you wonders. I also write poems again, which are not 
bad, and, if it were permitted me, I should like always to 
remain in this situation." 

Thurs., Sep. 11. — At two o'clock to-day, in the very finest 
weather, Goethe returned from Dornburg. He looked very 
well, and was quite browned by the sun. "We soon sat 
down to dinner, in the chamber next the garden, the doors 
of which stood open. He told us of many visits and 
presents which he had received ; and seemed to take pleasure 
in interspersing his conversation with light jests. If, how- 
ever, one looked deeper, one could not but perceive a certain 
embarrassment, such as a person feels who returns to a 
former situation, conditioned by manifold relations, views, 
and requisitions. 

During the first course, a message came from the 
Dowager Grand Duchess, expressing her pleasure at 
Goethe's return, and announcing that she would have the 
pleasure of visiting him on the following Tuesday. 

Since the death of the Grand Duke, Goethe had seen 
no member of the reigning family. He had, indeed, 
corresponded constantly with the Dowager Grand Duchess, 
so that they had sufficiently expressed their feelings upon 
their common loss. Still, the personal interview could 
not but awake painful emotions, and could not be antici- 
pated without some apprehension. Neither had Goethe 
yet seen the young Duke and Duchess, nor paid his 
homage to them as new rulers of the land. All this he 
had now to undergo, and even, though it could not disturb 
him as an accomplished man of the world, it was an im- 
pediment to his talent, which always loved to move in its 
innate directions, and in its own activity. Visits, too, 

t2 



324 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



threatened hini from all parts. The meeting at Berlin, or 
celebrated natural philosophers, had set in motion many 
important personages, who, passing through Weimar on 
their way, had, some of them, announced themselves, and 
were soon expected. Whole weeks of disturbance, which 
would take the inner sense out of its usual track, and 
other annoyances connected with visits otherwise so 
valuable ; — all this was foreseen like a coming spectre by 
Goethe, when he again set his foot on the threshold, and 
paced his rooms. What made all these coming evils still 
worse, was a circumstance which I cannot pass over. The 
fifth section of his works, which was to contain the 
" Wanderjahre," had been promised for the press at 
Christmas. Goethe had begun entirely to remodel this 
novel, which originally appeared in one volume, combining 
so much new matter with the old, that in the new edition 
it would occupy three volumes. 

Much is done, but there is also much to do. The 
manuscript has everywhere gaps of white paper, which are 
yet to be filled up. Here something is wanting to the 
introduction ; here is to be found a suitable link to render 
the reader less sensible that this is a collective work ; here 
are fragments of great interest, some of which want a 
beginning, others an end ; so that altogether there is 
much to do to all the three volumes, to make the important 
work at once attractive and graceful. 

Last spring Goethe gave me this manuscript to look 
over. We then both in words and writing discussed the 
subject at great length. I advised him to devote the 
whole summer to the completion of this work, and to lay 
aside all others for the time. He was likewise convinced 
of the necessity of the case, and had resolved to do so ; 
but the death of the Grand Duke had caused a gap in his 
existence ; the tranquillity and cheerfulness necessary to 
such a composition were not now to be thought of, and 
he needed all his strength merely to sustain the blow 
and revive from it. Wow, when with the commencement 
of autumn, returning from Dornburg, he again paced the 
rooms of his Weimar residence, the thought of completing 
his " Wanderjahre," f or which he had now only the space of a 
few months, came vividly before his mind, in conflict with 



i828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



325 



the various interruptions which awaited him, and impeded 
the free action of his talent. When all these matters are 
taken into consideration, I shall be understood when I say 
that Goethe was ill at ease within himself, although he 
jested lightly at dinner. I have another reason for 
mentioning these circumstances, they are connected with 
an observation of Goethe's, which appeared to me very 
remarkable, which expressed his situation and peculiar 
character, and of which 1 will now speak. 

Professor Abeken of Osnaburg had sent me, shortly 
before the 28th of August, an enclosure, requesting me to 
give it to Goethe on his birth- day, and saying it was a 
memorial relating to Schiller, which would certainly give 
him pleasure. "When Goethe was speaking to-day at 
dinner, of the various presents which had been sent to him 
at Dornburg in honoar of his birth-day, I asked him what 
Abeken's packet contained. 

" It was a remarkable present," said Goethe, "which 
really gave me great pleasure. An amiable lady, with 
whom Schiller took tea, conceived the happy idea of 
writing down all he said. She comprehended it well, and 
related it with accuracy, and after so long a time, it still 
reads well, inasmuch as one is transplanted immediately 
into a situation which is now passed by with a thousand 
others as interesting, while the living spirit of this one 
only has been felicitously caught and fixed upon paper. 

" Schiller appears here, as always, in perfect possession 
of his sublime nature. He is as great at the tea-table as 
he would have been in a council of state. Nothing con- 
strains him, nothing narrows him, nothing draws down- 
ward the flight of his thoughts ; the great views which 
lie within him are ever expressed freely and fearlessly. 
He was a true man, such as one ought to be. We others 
always feel ourselves subject to conditions. The persons, 
the objects that surround us have their influence upon 
us. The tea-spoon constrains us, if it is of gold, when it 
should be of silver, and so, paralyzed by a thousand 
considerations, we do not succeed in expressing freely 
whatever may be great in our nature. We are the slaves 
of objects round us, and appear little or important 
according as theie contract or give us room to expand." 



326 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



Goethe was silent. The conversation turned on other 
subjects ; but I continued to meditate on these important 
words, which had touched and expressed my own inmost 
soul. 

(Sup.*) Fri., 8e}jt. 26. — Goethe showed me to-day his 
rich collection of fossils, which he keeps in the detached 
pavilion in his garden. The collection was begun by 
himself ; but his son has greatly increased it ; and it is 
particularly remarkable for a long series of petrified bones, 
all of which were found in the neighbourhood of Weimar. 

Wed., Oct. 1. — Herr Honninghausen of Crefeld, head of 
a great mercantile house, and also an amateur of natural 
science, especially mineralogy, — a man possessed of varied 
information, through extensive travels and studies — dined 
with Goethe to-day. He had returned from the meeting 
of natural philosophers at Berlin, and a great deal was said 
about things connected with the subject, especially 
mineralogical matters. 

There was also some talk about the Vulcanists, and the 
way in which men arrive at views and hypotheses about 
nature. On this occasion, several great natural philoso- 
phers were mentioned, including Aristotle, concerning 
whom Goethe spoke thus : — 

" Aristotle observed nature better than any modern, 
but he was too hasty in his opinions. " We must go 
slowly and gently to work with nature, if we would get 
anything out of her. 

" If, on investigating natural objects, I formed an opinion 
I did not expect nature to concede the point at once, but 
I pursued her with observations and experiments, and was 
satisfied if she were kind enough to confirm my opinion 
when occasion offered. If she did not do this, she at any 
rate brought me to some other view, which I followed out, 
and which I perhaps found her more willing to confirm." 

Fri., Oct. 3. — To-day, at dinner, I talked with Goethe 
about Fouque's " Sangerkrieg auf der Wartburg," f which 
I had read, in compliance with his wish. We agreed that 
this poet had spent his life in old- German studies, without 
drawing from them any real culture in the end. 

t The " War of the Singers of the Wartburg " was a famous- 
poetical contest in the days of the old Minnesiingers. — Trans. 



1828.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 327 

"From these old-German gloomy times," said Goethe, 
" we can obtain as little as from the Servian songs, and 
similar "barbaric popular poetry. We can read it and be 
interested about it for a while, but merely to cast it* -aside, 
and let it lie behind us. Generally speaking, ♦<* man is 
quite sufficiently saddened by his own passions and destiny, 
and need not make himself more so by the darkness of a 
barbaric past. He needs enlightening and cheering 
influences, and should therefore turn to those eras in art 
and literature, during which remarkable men obtained 
perfect culture, so that they were satisfied with themselves, 
and able to impart to others the blessings of their culture. 

" But if you would have a good opinion of Fouque, 
read his ' Undine,' which is really charming. The subject 
is, indeed, very good, and one cannot even say that the 
writer has done with it all that was possible ; however, 
* Undine ' is good, and will give you pleasure." 

" I have been unfortunate in my acquaintance with the 
most modern German literature," said I. " I came to tho 
poems of Egon Bbert from Voltaire, whose acquaintance 
I had just made by those little poems which are addressed 
to individuals, and which certainly belong to the best he 
ever wrote. And now, I have fared no better with 
Fouque. While deeply engaged in Walter Scott's 1 Fair 
Maid of Fferth,' the first work of this great writer which 
I had ever read, I am induced to put it aside, and give 
myself up to the ' Sangerkrieg auf der Wartburg.' " 

"Against these great foreigners," said Goethe, "the 
modern Germans certainly cannot keep their ground ; but 
it is desirable that you should, by degrees, make yourself 
acquainted with all writers, foreign and domestic, that 
you may see how that higher world- culture, which the 
poet needs, is really to be obtained." 

Frau von Goethe came in, and sat down to the table with 
us. 

"But," continued Goethe, with animation, "Walter 
Scott's ' Fair Maid of Perth ' is excellent, is it not ? There 
is finish ! there is a hand ! What a firm foundation for the 
whole, and in particulars not a touch which does not lead 
to the catastrophe ! Then, what details of dialogue and 
description, both of which are excellent. 



328 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



" His scenes and situations are like pictures by Teniers ; 
in the arrangement they show the summit of art, the in- 
dividual figures have a speaking truth, and the execution 
is extended with artistical love to the minutest details, so 
that not a stroke is lost. How far have you read ? " 

"I have come," said I, "to the passage where Henry 
Smith carries the pretty minstrel girl home through the 
streets, and round about lanes ; and where, to his great 
vexation, Proudfoot and D wining met him." 

" Ah," said Goethe, "that is excellent ; that the obstinate, 
honest blacksmith should be brought at last to take with 
him not only the suspicious maiden, but even the little dog, 
is one of the finest things to be found in any novel. It 
shows a knowledge of human nature, to which the deepest 
mysteries are revealed." 

"It was also," said I, "an admirable notion to make the 
heroine's father a glover, who, by his trade in skins, must 
have been long in communication with the Highlanders." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "that is a touch of the highest 
order. From this circumstance spring the relations and 
situations most favourable for the whole book, and these 
by this means also obtain a real basis, so that they have an 
air of the most convincing truth. You find everywhere in 
Walter Scott a remarkable security and thoroughness in 
his delineation, which proceeds from his comprehensive 
knowledge of the real world, obtained by life-long studies 
and observations, and a daily discussion of the most im- 
portant relations. Then come his great talent and his com- 
prehensive nature. You remember the English critic, who 
compares the poets to the voices of male singers, of which 
some can command only a few fine tones, while others have 
the whole compass, from the highest to the lowest, com- 
pletely in their power. Walter Scott is one of this last 
sort. In the 'Pair Maid of Perth' you will not find a 
single weak passage to make you feel as if his knowledge 
and talent were insufficient. He is equal to his subject in 
every direction in which it takes him ; the king, the royal 
brother, the prince, the head of the clergy, the nobles, the 
magistracy, the citizens and mechanics, the Highlanders, 
are all drawn with the same sure hand, and hit off with 
equal truth." 



1828.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 329 

"The English," said Fran von Goethe, "particularly like 
the character of Henry Smith, and Walter Scott seems to 
have made him the hero of the hook ; however, he is not 
my favourite; I like the Prince." 

" The Prince," said I, " is, indeed, amiahle enough with 
all his wildness, and is as well drawn as any of the rest." 

"The passage," said Goethe, "where, sitting on horse- 
back, he makes the pretty minstrel girl step upon Ins foot, 
that he may raise her up for a kiss, is in the boldest English 
style. But you ladies are wrong always to take sides. 
Usually, you read a book to find nutrition for the heart ; 
to find a hero whom you could love. This is not the way to 
read ; the great point is, not whether this or that character 
pleases, but whether the whole book pleases." 

"We women were made so, dear father," said she, affec- 
tionately leaning over the table to press his hand. 

"Well, we must let you have your own way in your 
amiability," replied Goethe. 

The last number of the " Globe " lay by him, and he took 
it up. I talked, in the mean while, with Frau von Goethe, 
about some young Englishmen, whose acquaintance I had 
made at the theatre. 

" What men these writers in the ' Globe ' are ! " resumed 
Goethe, with animation. " One has scarcely a notion how 
it is they become greater and more remarkable every day , 
and how much, as it were, they are imbued with one spirit. 
Such a paper would be utterly impossible in Germany. We 
are mere individuals ; harmony and concert are not to be 
thought of ; each has the opinions of his province, his city, 
and his own idiosyncracy ; and it will be a long while before 
we have attained an universal culture." 

(Sup.*) M'on., Oct. 6. — Dined with Goethe, in company 
with Herr von Martius, who has been here for some days, 
and who spoke with Goethe on botanical subjects. It is 
especially the spiral tendency of plants, about which Herr 
von Martius has made important discoveries : these he 
imparted to Goethe, to whom they open a new field. Goethe 
appeared to take up his friend's idea with a sort of youthful 
ardour. "For the physiology of plants/' said he, "much 
is gained by it. The new discovery of the spiral tendency 
is thoroughly conformable to my doctrine of metamorphoses"; 



330 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



it lias been found on the same path, but is a considerable 
step in advance of it." 

Tues. y Oct. 7. — There was the most lively party at dinner 
to-day. Besides the Weimar friends, there were some 
natural philosophers returned from Berlin, among whom, 
Herr von Martius, from Munich, who sat next Goethe, 
was known to me. There was joking and conversations 
on the most various subjects. Goethe was particularly 
good-humoured and communicative. The theatre was 
then talked about, and much was said of the opera 
last given — Rossini's " Moses." They found fault with 
the subject, and both praised and found fault with the 
music. 

Goethe said, " I do not understand how you can separate 
the subject from the music, and enjoy each by itself. You 
say the subject is not a good one ; but you can set that 
aside, and enjoy the excellent music. I really admire this 
arrangement in your natures, by which your ears are able 
to listen to pleasant sounds, while the most powerful sense, 
vision, is tormented by the absurdest objects. And that 
this ' Moses ' is absurd you will not deny. When the 
curtain rises you see the people standing at prayer. This 
is very wrong. It is written ' When thou prayest, go into 
thy closet, and shut the door.' But there ought to be no 
praying on the stage. 

"I would have made a wholly different ' Moses,' and have 
begun the piece quite otherwise. I would have first shown 
you how the children of Israel in their hard bondage suffered 
from the tyranny of the Egyptian task-masters, in order 
to render more conspicuous the merit of Moses in freeing 
his people from this shameful oppression." 

Goethe then cheerfully went through the whole opera 
step by step, through all the scenes and acts, full of life 
and intelligence, and with a historical feeling for the sub- 
ject, to the delighted astonishment of the whole company, 
'vho could not but admire the irrepressible flow of his 
thoughts, and the wealth of his invention. It passed before 
me too quickly for me to seize it ; but I remember the dance 
of the Egyptians, which Goethe introduced to express their 
joy at the return of light, after the darkness had been 
overcome. 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



331 



The conversation turned from Moses to the deluge, and 
took a scientific turn. 

"It is said," observed Herr von Martius, "they have 
found on Ararat a petrified piece of Noah's ark, and I shall 
be surprised if they do not also find petrified skulls of the 
first men." 

This remark led to others of a similar kind, and the con- 
versation turned upon the various races of men — how as 
black, brown, yellow, and white, they inhabit the different 
countries of the earth. The question finally arose whether 
we ought to assume that all men are descended from the 
single pair, Adam and Eve. 

Von Martius was for the biblical account, which he sought 
to confirm by the maxim, that nature goes to work as 
economically as possible in her productions. 

" I cannot agree to that opinion," said Goethe ; " I main- 
tain rather that nature is always lavish, even prodigal ; and 
that it would show more acquaintance with her to believe 
she has, instead of one paltry pair, produced men by dozens 
or hundreds. 

" When the earth had arrived at a certain point of ma- 
turity, the water had ebbed away, and the dry land was 
sufficiently verdant, came the epoch for the creation of 
man, and men rose, through the omnipotence of God, 
wherever the ground permitted; perhaps on the heights 
first. 

" To believe that this happened I esteem reasonable ; but 
to attempt to decide how it happened I deem an useless 
trouble, which we will leave to those who like to busy 
themselves with insolvable problems, and have nothing 
better to do." 

"Even," said Herr von Martius, archly, "if I could, as 
a naturalist, willingly yield to your excellency's opinion, I 
should, as a good Christian, find some difficulty in adopting* 
a view which cannot well be reconciled with the account 
given us in the Bible." 

"Holy writ," replied Goethe, "speaks, certainly, only of 
one pair of human beings, whom God made on the sixth day ; 
but the gifted men who wrote down the Word of God, as 
recorded in the Bible, had first in view their own chosen 
people ; and as far as that people is concerned, we will not 



332 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



dispute the honour of a descent from Adam and Eve. But 
we, as well as the Negroes and Laplanders, and slender 
men, who are handsomer than any of us, had certainly 
different ancestors ; and this worthy company must confess 
that we at present differ in a variety of particulars from 
the genuine descendants of Adam, and that they, especially 
where money is concerned, are superior to us all." 

We laughed ; the conversation became general. Goethe, 
excited by Yon Martius to argument, said many interesting 
things, which, under the appearance of jesting, had a 
deeper meaning at bottom. 

After dinner, the Prussian minister, Herr Von Jordan, 
was announced, and we went into the next room. 

Wed., Oct. 8. — Tieck, returning from a journey to the 
Rhine, with his wife, his daughters, and Countess Pinken- 
stein, was expected to dine with Goethe to-day. I met 
them in the anteroom. Tieck looked very well ; the Rhine 
baths seemed to have had a favourable effect upon him. 
I told him that since I had seen him I had been reading Sir 
"Walter Scott's new novel, and what pleasure this extraor- 
dinary talent had given me. 

" I suspect," said Tieck, " that this last novel of Scott's, 
which I have not yet read, is the best he has ever written : 
however, he is so great a writer, that the first work of his 
which you read always excites astonishment, approach him 
on what side you will." 

Professor Gottling came in, just fresh from his Italian 
tour. I was extremely glad to see him again, and drew 
him to a window that he might tell me what he had seen. 

" To Rome ! " said he ; " you must to Rome, if you 
would become anything ! That is indeed a city ! that is a 
life! that is a world! "Whatever is small in our nature 
cannot be eradicated while we are in Germany, but as soon 
as we enter Rome a transformation takes place in us, and 
we feel ourselves great, like the objects which surround us." 

""Why," said I, " did you not stay there longer ? " 

" My money and my leave of absence were at an end," 
he replied, " but I felt very uncomfortable when I again 
crossed the Alps, leaving fair Italy behind me." 

Goethe came in, and greeted his guests. He talked on 
various subjects with Tieck and his family, and then offered 



i8z8.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



333 



the countess his arm to take her to the dining-room. We 
followed, and when we took our seats at the table made a 
motley group. The conversation was lively and uncon- 
strained, bnt I remember little of what was said. 

After dinner, the Princes von Oldenburg were announced. 
We then went up to Frau von Goethe's apartment, where 
Fraulein Agnes Tieck seated herself at the piano, and gave 
us the song " Im Felde schleich' ich still und wild," with a 
fine alto voice, and so thoroughly in the spirit of the situa- 
tion, that it made quite an ineffaceable impression on the 
mind. 

Thurs., Oct 9. — I dined to-day with Goethe and Frau 
von Goethe alone ; and as it often happens that a conversa- 
tion begun on one day is continued on another, so was it 
on this occasion. Rossini's " Moses " was again spoken of, 
and we recalled with pleasure Goethe's lively invention the 
day before yesterday. 

" What I said, in the merriment and good-humour of the 
moment, about 4 Moses,' " said he, " I cannot recall ; for 
such things are done quite unconsciously. But of this I am 
certain, that I cannot enjoy an opera unless the story is as 
perfect as the music, so that the two may keep pace one 
with another. If you ask what opera I consider good, I 
would name the * Wassertrager ' (Water- Carrier) ; for here 
the subject is so perfect, that, if given as a mere drama, 
without music, it could be seen with pleasure. Composers 
either do not understand the importance of a good founda- 
tion, or they have not intelligent poets who know to assist 
them with good stories. If ' Der Freischiitz' had not been 
so good a subject, the mere music would hardly have drawn 
such crowds; and therefore Herr Kind should have some 
share in the honour." 

After various discussion on this subject, we spoke of 
Professor Gottling, and his travels in Italy. 

" I cannot blame the good man," said Goethe, " for speak- 
ing of Italy with such enthusiasm ; I well laiow what I 
experienced myself. Indeed, I may say that only in Rome 
have I felt what it really is to be a man. To this elevation, 
to this happiness of feeling, I have never since arisen ; in- 
deed, compared with my situation at Rome, I have never 
since felt real gladness. 



334 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1828. 



u But," continued Goethe, after a pause, " we will not 
give ourselves up to melancholy thoughts. How do you 
get on with your ' Fair Maid of Perth ? ' How far have 
you read ? Tell me all about it." 

" I read slowly," said I. " However, I am now as far as 
the scene where Proudfoot, when in Henry Smith's armour 
he imitates his walk and whistle, is slain, and on the follow- 
ing morning is found in the streets of Perth by the citi- 
zens, who, taking him for Smith, raise a great alarm 
through the city." 

"Ay," said Goethe, "that scene is remarkable ; it is one 
of the best." 

"I have been particularly struck," said I, "with Walter 
Scott's great talent for disentangling confused situations, 
so that the whole separates itself into masses and quiet 
pictures, which leave on our minds an impression as if, like 
omniscient beings, we had looked down and seen events 
which were occurring at the same time in various places." 

" Generally," said Goethe, " he shows great understanding 
of art ; for which reason we, and those like us, who always 
particularly look to see how things are done, find a double 
interest and the greatest profit in his works. 

" I will not anticipate, but you will find in the third 
volume an admirable contrivance. You have already seen 
how the prince in council makes the wise proposal to let 
the rebel Highlanders destroy one another in combat, and 
how Palm Sunday is appointed for the day when the hostile 
clans are to come down to Perth, and to fight for life or 
death, thirty against thirty. You will see with admiration 
how Scott manages to make one man fail on one side on the 
decisive day, and with what art he contrives to bring his 
hero Smith from a distance into the vacant place among 
the combatants. This is admirably done ; and you will be 
delighted when you come to it. 

"But, when you have finished the 'Pair Maid of Perth,' 
you must at once read ' Waverley,' which is indeed from 
quite a different point of view, but which may, without 
hesitation, be set beside the best works that have ever been 
written in this world. We see that it is the same man who 
wrote the 1 Pair Maid of Perth,' but that he has yet to gain 
the favour of the public, and therefore collects his forces 



I S28.J CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 335 

so thai he may not give a touch that is short of excellence. 
The 'Fair Maid of Perth,' on the other hand, is from a 
freer pen ; the author is now snre of his public, and he pro- 
ceeds more at liberty. After reading ' Waverley,' yon will 
understand why Walter Scott still designates himself the 
author of that work ; for there he showed what he could 
do, and he has never since written anything to surpass, or 
even equal, that first published novel." 

Thurs. evening, Oct. 9. — In honour of Tieck, a very 
pleasant tea-party was given this evening in the apartments 
of Frau von Goethe. I made the acquaintance of Count 
and Countess Medem. The latter told me that she had seen 
Goethe to-day, and had been highly delighted by the im- 
pression he had made. The count was especially interested 
about " Faust " and its continuation, and conversed with 
me about it for some time with much animation. 

We had hoped that Tieck would read something aloud, 
and he did so. The party retired into a more remote room, 
and after all had comfortably seated themselves in a wide 
circle on chairs and sofas, he read " Clavigo." 

I had often read and felt this drama ; but now it ap- 
peared to me quite new, and produced an effect such as I 
had scarcely experienced before. It seemed as if I heard it 
from the stage, only better ; every character and situation 
was more perfectly felt : it produced the impression of a 
theatrical representation in which each part is well per- 
formed. 

It would be hard to say what parts Tieck read best ; 
y/hether those in which the powers and passions of the male 
characters are developed; or the quiet clear scenes ad- 
dressed to the understanding ; or the moments of tortured 
love- For giving expression to passages of this last sort, he 
had especial qualifications. The scene between Marie and 
Clavigo is still ringing in my ears ; the oppressed bosom ; 
the faltering and trembling of the voice ; the broken half- 
stifled words and sounds ; the panting and sighing of a hot 
breath accompanied with tears ; — all this is still present 
with me, and will never be forgotten. Every one was ab- 
sorbed in listening, and wholly carried away. The lights 
burned dim ; nobody thought of that, or ventured to snuff 
them, for fear of the slightest interruption. Tears con- 



336 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l82c. 



stantly dropping from the eyes of the ladies showed the 
deep effect of the piece, and were the most hearty tribute 
that could be paid to the reader of the poet. 

Tieck had. finished, and rose, wiping the perspiration from 
his forehead ; but the hearers seemed still fettered to their 
chairs. Each man appeared too deeply engaged with what 
had just been passing through his soul, to have ready the 
suitable words of gratitude for him who had produced so 
wonderful an effect upon us all. Gradually, however, we 
recovered ourselves. The company arose, and talked cheer- 
fully with one another. Then we partook of a supper 
which stood ready on little tables in the adjoining rooms. 

Goethe himself was not present this evening ; but his 
spirit and a remembrance of him were living among us all. 
He sent an apology to Tieck ; and to his daughters, Agnes 
and Dorothea, two handkerchief-pins, with his own picture 
and red ribbons, which Frau von Goethe gave them, and 
fastened to their dresses like little orders. 

FH. 9 Oct 10. — From Mr. William Frazer, of London, 
editor of the " Foreign Review," I received, this morning, 
two copies of the third number of that periodical, and gave 
one of them to Goethe at dinner. 

I found again a pleasant dinner party, invited in honour 
of Tieck and the Countess, who, at the urgent request of 
Goethe and their other friends, had remained another day, 
the rest of the family having set off in the morning for 
Dresden. 

At table a special subject of conversation was English 
literature, and particularly Walter Scott, on which occasion 
Tieck said, that he brought to Germany the first copy of 
Waverley ten years ago. 

Sat., Oct. 11. — The above-mentioned number of the 
' : Foreign Review " contained, with a variety of other im- 
portant and interesting articles, a very fine essay by Carlyle, 
upon Goe+he, which I studied this morning. 

I went to Goethe a little earlier to dinner, that I might 
have an opportunity of talking this over with him before 
the arrival of the other guests. I found him, as I wished, 
still alone, expecting the company. He wore his black coai 
and star, with which I so much like to see him. He ap- 
peared to-day in quite youthful spirits, and we began im- 



i8z8.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



mediately to speak on topics interesting to both. Goethe 
told me that he likewise had been looking at Carlyle's 
article this morning, and thus we were both in a position 
to exchange commendations of these foreign attempts. 

" It is pleasant to see," said Goethe, "how the earlier 
pedantry of the Scotch has changed into earnestness and 
profundity. When I recollect how the 'Edinburgh Re- 
viewers ' treated my works not many years since, and when 
I now consider Carlyle's merits with respect to German 
literature, I am astonished at the important step for the 
better." 

"In Carlyle," said I, "I venerate most of all the mind 
and character which lie at the foundation of his tendencies. 
The chief point with him is the culture of his own nation ; 
and, in the literary productions of other countries, which 
he wishes to make known to his contemporaries, he pays 
less attention to the arts of talent, than to the moral eleva- 
tion which can be attained through such works." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "the temper in which he works is 
always admirable. What an earnest man he is ! and how 
he has studied us Germans ! He is almost more at home 
in our literature than ourselves. At any rate, we cannot 
vie with him in our researches in English literature." 

" The article," said I, "is written with a fire and impres- 
siveness which show that there are many prejudices and 
contradictions to contend with in England. 'Wilhelm 
Meister' especially seems to have been placed in an unfavour- 
able light by malevolent critics and bad translators. Carlyle, 
on the contrary, behaves very well. To the stupid objection 
that no virtuous lady could read 'Wilhelm Meister,' he 
opposes the example of the late Queen of Prussia, who 
made herself familiar with the book, and was rightly 
esteemed one of the first women of her time." 

Some of the guests came in now, whom Goethe received. 
He then turned tome again, and I continued. 

"Carlyle has, indeed," said I, "studied ' Meister,' and, 
being so thoroughly penetrated with its value, he would 
like to see it universally circulated, — would like to see 
every cultivated mind receive similar profit and enjoyment." 

Goethe drew me to a window to answer me. 

" My dear young friend," said he, " I will confide to you 

z 



338 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



something which may help you on a great deal. My works 
cannot be popular. He who thinks and strives to make 
them so is in error. They are not written for the multitude, 
but only for individuals who desire something congenial, 
and whose aims are like my own." 

He wished to say more ; but a young lady who came 
up interrupted him, and drew him into conversation. I 
turned to the others, and soon afterwards we sat down to 
table. 

I could pay no attention to the conversation that was 
going on; Goethe's words were impressed upon me, and 
entirely occupied my mind. 

" Really," thought I, "a writer like him, an intellect 
so exalted, a nature so comprehensive, how can he be 
popular ? Can even a small part of him be popular ? even 
those songs which convivial companies or enamoured 
maidens sing, and which again are not for others ? 

" And, rightly regarded, is not this the case with every- 
thing extraordinary ? Is Mozart, is Raphael popular ? and 
is not the relation of the world towards these great foun- 
tains of overflowing spiritual life like that of some dainty 
person, who is pleased now and then to snatch up a little 
that may for a while afford higher enjoyment. 

"Yes," I continued, in my own mind, " Goethe is right. 
He cannot be popular to his full extent'; his works are only 
for individuals who desire something congenial, and whose 
pursuits are like his own. They are for contemplative 
natures, who wish to penetrate into the depths of the world 
and human nature, and follow in his path. They are for 
those susceptible of passionate enjoyment, who seek in the 
poet the bliss and woe of the heart. They are for young 
poets who would learn how to express their feelings, and 
how to treat a subject artistically. They are for critics, 
who find there a model for the best rules of judgment, and 
also for the means of making a criticism interesting and 
attractive, so that it may be read with pleasure. 

" His works are for the artist, inasmuch as they enlighten 
his mind generally, and teach him particularly what sub- 
jects are suited to works of art ; what he should use, and 
what leave aside. They are for the observer of nature, not 
only because great laws are discovered and taught him, but, 



1828.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 339 

still more, because they give him tlie method by which the 
intellect must proceed with nature to make her reveal her 
mysteries. 

" In short, all those who are making efforts in science or 
art, may be guests at the richly-provided banquet of his 
works, and in their productions bear witness to the great 
general source of light and Hfe L from which they have 
drawn." 

These and similar thoughts were in my head all dinner- 
time. 1 thought of individuals, of many a good German 
artist, of natural philosophers, poets, and critics, who owed 
to Goethe a great part of their culture. I thought of intel- 
lectual Italians, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, who have 
their eyes upon him, and who have worked in his spirit. 

In the mean while, all around me were jesting and talk- 
ing, and partaking of the good fare. I spoke now and then 
a word, but without exactly knowing what I said. A lady 
put a question to me, to which, it seems, I did not render a 
very appropriate answer : they all laughed at me. 

" Let Eckermann alone," said Goethe. " He is always 
absent, except when he is at the theatre." 

They laughed at me again ; but I did not regard it. I 
felt myself, to-day, peculiarly happy. I blessed my fate, 
which, after many singular dispensations, had associated 
me "with the few who enjoy the conversation and intimacy 
of a man whose greatness I had deeply felt only a few mo- 
ments since, and whom I now had personally before my 
eyes, in all his amiability. 

Biscuits and some very fine grapes were brought for 
dessert. The latter had been sent from a distance, and 
Goethe would not say whence they came. He divided 
them, and handed me a very ripe branch across the table. 

" Here, my good friend," said he, " eat these sweets, and 
much good may they do you." 

I highly enjoyed the grapes from Goethe's hand, and 
was now quite near him both in body and soul. 

They talked of the theatre, and of Wolff's great merits, 
and of what had been done by that excellent artist. 

" I know very well," said Goethe, " that our earlier actors 
learned much from me, but I can properly call none but 
"Wolff my pupil. I will give you an instance, which I am 

z2 



340 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



very fond of repeating, to show how thoroughly he was 
penetrated with my principles, and how fully he acted in 
my spirit. I was once very angry with Wolff for various 
reasons. He played one evening, and I was sitting in my 
box. ' Now,' thought I to myself, ' you can keep a sharp 
look out upon him ; for there is not, to-day, a spark of af- 
fection within you, which can speak out for him and excuse 
him. Wolff acted, and I kept my sharp eye fixed upor. 
him. And how did he act ! How safe — how firm he was ! 
It was impossible to find out in him even the shadow of an 
offence against the rules which I had implanted in him, and 
I saw that a reconciliation with him was inevitable.' " 

(Sup.*) Fri., Oct. 17. — Goethe has, for some time past, 
been reading the "Globe" very eagerly, and he often 
makes this paper the subject of his conversation. The en- 
deavours of Cousin and his school appear to him especially 
important. 

"These men," said he, "are quite on the way to effect 
an approximation between France and Germany, inasmuch 
as they form a language which is entirely fitted to facilitate 
the interchange of ideas between the two nations." 

The " Globe " has also a particular interest for Goethe, 
because the newest productions in French belles-lettres are 
reviewed, and the freedom of the romantic school, or rather 
the emancipation from the fetters of unmeaning rules, is 
often defended in a very animated manner. 

" What is the use of the whole lumber of rules belonging 
to a stiff antiquated time," said he to-day, " and what is 
the use of all the noise about classical and romantic ! The 
point is for a work to be throughly good and then it is sure 
to be classical." 

Mon., Oct. 20. — Oberbergrathf Nceggerath of Bonn, on his 
return from the meeting of natural philosophers at Berlin, 
was a very welcome guest to-day at Goethe's table. There 
was much talk about mineralogy, and the worthy stranger 
gave us some profound information about the mineralogical 
phenomena in the neighbourhood of Bonn. 

After dinner we went into the room where there is the 
colossal bust of Juno. Goethe showed the guests a long 

f Literally, " Upper-Mine-Cormcillor " — a superior officer in a 
mining office. — Trans. 



1828.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 34)1 

slip of paper, with outlines of the frieze of the temple at 
Phigalia. While we were looking at these, the remark was 
made that the Greeks, in representing animals, adhered less 
to nature than to certain conventional rules, and there was 
an attempt to prove, that in representations of this kind 
they are inferior to nature, and that their rams, oxen, and 
horses, as they appear in bas-relief, are often very stiff, 
shapeless, and imperfect creatures. 

"I will not dispute with you about that point," said 
Goethe ; " but before all things, we must distinguish the 
time and the artist from which such works proceed. For 
numbers of masterpieces have been found, in which the 
Greek artists, in representing animals, have not only 
equalled, but even far surpassed nature. The English, who 
understand horses better than any nation in the world, are 
now compelled to acknowledge that two antique heads of 
horses are more perfect in their forms than those of any race 
now existing upon earth. 

" These heads are from the best Greek period, and while 
we are astonished at such works, we should not so much 
infer that the artists have copied from a more perfect nature 
than we now possess, as that they themselves had become 
of some value in the progress of art, so that they turned to 
nature with their own personal greatness." 

While all this was said, I stood on one side, looking at an 
engraving with a lady, at one of the tables, and could only 
lend half an ear to Goethe's words ; but so much the deeper 
did they sink into my mind. 

After the company had gradually departed, and I was 
alone with Goethe, who stood by the stove, 1 approached 
him. 

" Tour excellency," said I, " made an excellent remark a 
little while ago, when you said that the Greeks turned to 
nature with their own greatness, and I think that we cannot 
be too deeply penetrated with this maxim." 

"Yes, my good friend," said Goethe, "all depends upon 
this ; one must he something in order to do something. 
Dante seems to us great ; but he had the culture of centuries 
behind him. The house of Rothschild is rich ; but it has 
taken more than one generation to accumulate such trea- 
sures. All these things lie deeper than is thought. 



342 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



" Our worthy artists who imitate the old German school 
know nothing of all this; they proceed to the imitation 
of nature with their own personal weakness and artistic 
incapacity, and fancy they are doing something. They 
stand below nature. But whoever will produce anything 
great, must so improve his culture that, like the Greeks, 
he will be able to elevate the mere trivial actualities of 
nature to the level of his own mind, and really carry out 
that which, in natural phenomena, either from internal 
weakness or external obstacles, remains a mere intention." 

Wed., Oct. 22. — To-day at dinner we talked about ladies, 
and Goethe expressed himself very beautifully. " Women," 
said he, "are silver dishes into which we put golden 
apples. My idea of women is not abstracted from the 
phenomena of actual life, but has been born with me, or 
arisen in me, God knows how. The female characters 
which I have drawn have therefore all turned out well ; 
they are all better than could be found in reality." 

(Sup.) Thurs., Oct. 23. — Goethe spoke to-day with great 
respect of a little paper of the Chancellor's, on the subject 
of the Grand-Duke Charles Augustus, which revie ws, in a 
short compass, the active life of this remarkable prince. 

" He has been very happy with this little work," said 
Goethe; "the materials are brought together with great 
circumspection and care ; then all is animated with the 
breath, of the heartiest love, while at the same time the 
style is so close, that one act follows immediately upon 
another, and we almost feel a mental giddiness in the 
contemplation of such fulness of life and action. The 
Chancellor has also sent his work to Berlin, and received 
some time ago a highly remarkable letter from Alexander 
von Humboldt, which I could not read without deep 
emotion. Humboldt was on the most intimate terms 
with the Grand-Duke during a long life ; which certainly 
is not to be wondered at, since the profound and highly 
endowed nature of the Prince was always athirst for fresh 
knowledge, and Humboldt, with his great universality, 
was just the man to be always ready with the best and 
profoundest answer to every question. 

" Now, it is a singular fact that the Grand-Duke passed 
the very last days before his death at Berlin, in almost 



i8z8.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



343 



constant intercourse with Humboldt, and that he was 
at last able to obtain from his friend the solution of many 
important problems which lay upon his heart. Further, 
the circumstance that one of the greatest princes whom 
Germany had ever possessed had such a man as Humboldt 
to witness his last days and hours, could not fail of pro- 
ducing a favourable effect. I have made a copy of the 
letter, and will impart some passages to you." 

Goethe rose and went to his desk, whence he took the 
letter, and then reseated himself at the table. He read 
for some time in silence. I saw tears in his eyes. " Read 
it for yourself," said he, whilst he handed it to me. He 
rose and walked up and down the room whilst I read : — 

" Who could have been more shocked at the sudden 
departure of the illustrious deceased," writes Humboldt, 
"than I, whom he treated during thirty years with such 
kind distinction, I may say with such sincere predilection. 
Even here he would have me near him almost every hour ; 
and as if this great brightness, as with the lofty snow- 
capped Alps, were the forerunner of departing light, 
never have I seen the great humane prince more animated, 
more intelligent, more mild, more sympathizing with the 
further development of the people, than in the last days 
when we had him here. I frequently said to my friends, 
anxiously and full of misgivings, that this animation, 
this mysterious clearness of intellect, combined with so 
much bodily weakness, was to me a fearful phenomenon. 
He himself evidently vacillated between hope of recovery 
and expectation of the great catastrophe. 

"When I saw him at breakfast four-and-twenty hours 
previously to this, though he was ill and without appetite, 
he still questioned me cheerfully upon the granite of the 
shores of the Baltic which had just been brought from 
Sweden, upon the tails of the comets which might dim our 
atmosphere, and upon the cause of the extreme severity of 
the winter on all the eastern coasts. 

" When I saw him for the last time, he pressed my hand 
at my departure, and cheerfully said — ' Ho you believe, 
Humboldt, that Toplitz and all the warm springs are like 
water artificially heated ? We will discuss that at Toplitz, 
when you come there with the king. You will see 



344 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



that your old kitchen fire will still make me hold together 
for a while.' Strange ! for with such a man everything is 
of importance. 

" In Potsdam, I sat many hours alone with him upon his 
couch ; he drank and slept alternately, then drank again, 
then rose to write to his consort, and then slept again. He 
was cheerful, but much exhausted. In the intervals, he 
overpowered me with the most difficult questions upon 
physics, astronomy, meteorology, and geognosy ; upon the 
transparency of the nucleus of a comet ; upon the atmo- 
sphere of the moon ; upon the coloured double stars ; upon 
the influence of the spots in the sun upon temperature ; upon 
the appearance of organized forms in the primitive world ; 
and upon the internal warmth of the earth. He slept at 
intervals during his discourse and mine, was often restless, 
and then said, mildly and kindly excusing his apparent 
inattention, ' You see, Humboldt, it is all over with me ! ' 

" Suddenly, he began to talk desultorily upon religious 
matters. He regretted the increase of pietism, and the 
connection of this species of fanaticism with a tendency 
towards political absolutism, and a suppression of all free 
mental action. 'Then,' he exclaimed, 'there are false- 
hearted fellows who think that by means of pietism they 
can make themselves agreeable to princes, and obtain places 
and ribbons. They ha^e smuggled themselves in with a 
poetical predilection for the middle ages.' 

" His anger soon abated, and he said that he now found 
much consolation in the Christian religion. 'It is a 
human doctrine,' said he, ' but has been distorted from the 
beginning. The first Christians were the free-thinkers 
among the ultras.' " 

I expressed to Goethe my delight at this noble letter. 
" You see," said Goethe, "what an extraordinary man he 
was. But how good it is of Humboldt to have taken up 
these last few traits, which may certainly serve as a symbol 
in which the whole nature of this eminent prince is 
reflected. Yes, such he was! — I can say it better than 
any one, for no one knew him so thoroughly as I did. But 
is it not lamentable that there is no distinction, and that 
such a man must depart from us so early ! Had he staid 
with us only a poor century more, how, in his high position, 



3828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



S45 



could lie have advanced his age ! But mark this. The 
world will not attain its goal so speedily as we expect and 
desire. There are always retarding demons, who start in 
opposition at every point, so that although the whole 
progresses, it is but slowly. Only live on, and you will find 
that I am right." 

"The development of mankind," said I, "appears to be 
laid out as a work for thousands of years." 

" Perhaps millions," said Goethe — " who knows ? But 
let mankind last as long as it may, it will never lack 
obstacles to give it trouble, and never lack the pressure of 
necessity to develop its powers. 

" Men will become more clever and more acute, but not 
better, happier, and stronger in action, or at least only at 
epochs. I foresee the time when God will have no more 
joy in them, but will break up everything for a renewed 
creation. I am certain that everything is planned to this 
end, and that the time and hour are already fixed in the 
distant future for the occurrence of this renovating epoch. 
But a long time will elapse first, and we may still for 
thousands and thousands of years amuse ourselves in all 
sorts of ways on this dear old surface." 

Goethe was in a particularly good and elevated mood. 
He ordered a bottle of wine, and filled for himself and me. 
Our conversation again turned upon the Grand Duke 
Charles Augustus. 

" You see," said Goethe, " how his extraordinary mind 
embraced the whole kingdom of nature. Physics, astronomy, 
geognosy, meteorology, vegetable and animal formations 
of the primitive world, and everything of the sort ; — he had 
a mind for all and took interest in them all. He was 
eighteen years of age when I came to Weimar ; but even 
then the buds showed what the tree would one day become. 
He soon attached himself most intimately to me, and took a 
deep interest in all that I did. It was advantageous to our 
intercourse that I was ten years older than he. He sat whole 
evenings with me, in earnest conversation on the subjects 
of art and nature, and other excellent topics. We often sat 
together deep into the night, and not unfrequently we both 
fell asleep on one sofa. We worked together for fifty years, 
and it is no wonder that we at last achieved something." 



346 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1828. 



" So thorough a cultivation as the Grand Duke seems to 
have received is probably rare among princes." 

« Very seldom ! " returned Goethe. " There are, indeed, 
many who are capable of conversing very cleverly on every 
subject, but they have it not at heart, and only dabble upon 
the surface. And it is no wonder, if one considers the 
frightful dissipations and distractions which accompany a 
court life, and to which a young prince is exposed. He 
must take notice of everything ; he must know a bit of this 
and a bit of that. Under such circumstances, nothing can 
take root ; and it requires a strong natural foundation not 
to end in smoke in the face of such constant demands. The 
Grand-Duke was indeed a born great man ; and in this all 
is said, and all is done." 

"With all his highly scientific and intellectual tenden- 
cies," said I, " he appears to have understood the art of 
government." 

"He was a man of one piece," returned Goethe, "and 
with him everything flowed from one single great source. 
And as the whole was good, so the individual parts were 
good, let him do as he might. But he possessed three 
especially useful qualities for carrying on a government. 
He had the talent of discriminating between minds and 
characters, and of placing every one in his proper place. 
That was a great point. Then he possessed another gift as 
great, if not greater : he was animated by the noblest 
benevolence, by the purest philanthropy, and with his 
whole soul aimed only at what was best. He always 
thought first of the happiness of his country, and only at 
last a little of himself. His hand was always ready and 
open to meet noble men, and to assist in promoting worthy 
objects. There was a great deal that was divine in him. 
He would have liked to promote the happiness of all man- 
kind. Love engenders love, and one who is loved can 
easily govern. 

"Thirdly, he was greater than those who surrounded 
him. After ten voices which he heard on a certain 
occasion, he perceived an eleventh, and that a better one, in 
himself. Strange whispers passed him unheeded, and he 
was not easily led to commit anything unprincely, by setting 
aside real merit on which a doubt had been cast, and 



i8z8.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



U7 



taking worthless ragamuffins under his protection. He 
surveyed everything himself, judged for himself, and had 
in all case^ithe surest basis in himself. Moreover, he was 
of a silent nature, and his words were always followed by 
action." / 

"How it grieves me," said I, "that I knew nothing of 
him but Jiis exterior ; still that made a deep impression upon 
me. I rtee him still in his old drosky, in a worn-out grey 
cloak arid military cap, smoking a 'cigar, as he drove to the 
chase, with his favourite hound by his side. I have never 
seen him ride otherwise than in this ugly old drosky. And 
never with more than two horses. An equipage with six 
horses, and coats with orders, do not seem to have been 
much according to his taste." 

"That sort of thing," returned Goethe, "is now almost 
out of date with princes generally. The only point now is 
what a man weighs in the scale of humanity ; all the rest 
is nought. A coat with a star, and a chariot with six 
horses, at all events, imposes on the rudest multitude only, 
and scarcely that. Then the Grand Duke's old drosky 
barely hung upon springs. Whoever rode with him had to 
put up with some desperate shocks. But that was in his 
way ; he liked the rough and inconvenient, and was an 
enemy to all effeminacy." 

" We see traces of that in your poem of * Ilmenau/ " 
said I, "in which you appear to have drawn him to the 
life." 

" He was then very young," returned Goethe, " and we 
certainly led rather a mad life. He was like a fine wine, 
still in a high state of fermentation. He did not know how 
to expend his powers, and we often nearly broke our necks. 
Fagging all day long on horseback, over hedges and 
ditches, through rivers, up hill and down hill ; and then at 
night encamping in the open air, by a fire in the wood ; — 
this was what he liked. To have inherited a dukedom was 
in him nothing ; but to have taken one by storm, he would 
have considered something. 

" The poem of ' Ilmenau,' " continued Goethe, " contains, 
as an episode, an epoch which, in the year 1783, when I 
wrote it, had happened many years before, so that I could 
describe myself in it as an historical personage, and could 



348 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. ' ["1828. 

hold a conversation with the self of former y^ars. There 
occurs in it, as yon know, a nightly scene after one of the 
break-neck chases in the mountain. We hao; built our- 
selves at the foot of a rock some little huts, aibd covered 
them with fir branches, that we might pass the T night on 
dry ground. Before the huts we burned several \fires, and 
we cooked and spread out the produce of th^3 chase. 
Knebel, whose tobacco pipe was not then cold, satfnext to 
the fire, and enlivened the company with various dry 
jokes, whilst the wine-flask passed from hand to hand. 
Seckendorf the slender, with his long thin limbs, had 
comfortably stretched himself out by the trunk of a tree, 
and was humming all sorts of poetics. On one side, in a 
similar little hut, lay the Grand Duke, in a deep slumber. 
I myself sat before him, by the glimmering light of the 
coals, absorbed in various grave thoughts, suffering acces- 
sions of regret for the mischief which had been done by 
my writings. Knebel and Seckendorf do not appear to me 
to be badly drawn, neither is the young prince, in the 
gloomy impetuosity of his twentieth year. 

' He hurries onwards, inconsiderate, 

No rock appears too steep, no bridge too small, 
Ghastly mischances ever on him wait, 

And into Pain's hard arms he oft must fall. 
The wild unruly impulse in his breast, 

Now here, now there, still sets him roving j 
At last he takes his gloomy rest, 

When weary of his gloomy moving. 
Joyless, though feeling no control, 

Sullen, though wild in happiest days, 
"Wounded and fagged in body and in soul, 

On a hard couch his frame he lays.' 

" That is he exactly. Not the slightest touch is ex- 
aggerated. Nevertheless, the Duke soon worked himself 
out of this 'storm-and-stress period,'* into a state of 
useful clearness, so that on his birthday, in the year 1783, 
I could well remind him of this image of his earlier days. 

" I will not deny that in the beginning he caused me 

* The " storm-and-stress (Sturm und Drang) period " of German 
literature, which takes its name from one of Klinger's plays, is that 
period of unfettered impulse which is particularly represented by 
-Schiller's " Robbers." — Trans. 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



349 



much trouble and anxiety. Yet his noble nature soon 
cleared itself, and formed itself to the highest degree of 
perfection, so that it was a pleasure to live and act with 
him." 

" In these early times you made a tour with him through 
Switzerland," remarked I. 

" He was fond of travelling altogether," returned Goethe, 
" not so much for the sake of amusing himself as to have 
his eyes and ears open, and notice whatever was good and 
useful, in order to introduce it into his own country. On 
this account, agriculture, cattle-breeding, and industry 
altogether, are infinitely indebted to him. His tendencies 
were not generally personal or egotistical, but of a purely 
productive kind ; and, indeed, productive for the general 
good. He has thus acquired a name which has extended 
far beyond this little country." 

"His careless, simple exterior," said I, "appeared to in- 
timate that he did not seek renown, and that he set little 
store by it. It seemed as if he had become renowned with- 
out any effort of his own, merely by means of his own 
passive excellence." 

"There is something peculiar in that," returned Goethe. 
" Wood burns because it has the proper stuff for that pur- 
pose in it ; and a man becomes renowned because he has 
the necessary stuff in him. Renown is not to be sought, 
and all pursuit of it is vain. A person may, indeed, by 
skilful conduct and various artificial means, make a sort of 
name for himself. But if the inner jewel is wanting, all is 
vanity, and will not last a day. Just the same is it with 
popular favour. He did not seek it, and he by no means 
nattered people ; but the nation loved him, because it felt- 
that he had a heart for it." 

Goethe then mentioned the other members of the Grand 
Duke's family, and how the mark of a noble character ran 
through them all. He svdke of the benevolence of the 
present Regent, and of the great hopes which were enter- 
tained of the young Prince, and expatiated with evident 
love upon the rare qualities of the now reigning Princess, 
who, in the noblest spirit, was applying great means to 
alleviate sufferings and to bring forth germs of goodness. 
" She has at all times been a good angel to her country," 



350 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[l828. 



said lie, "and slie becomes so more and more the longer she 
is united to it. I have known the Grand Duchess since the 
year 1805, and have had many opportunities of admiring 
her mind and character. She is one of the best and most 
distinguished women of our time, and would be so if she 
were not a princess. And this is the great point, that 
even when the purple has been laid aside, much that is 
great, nay, what is really the best, still remains." 

We then spoke of the unity of Germany, and in what 
sense it was possible and desirable. 

"I am not uneasy," said Goethe, "about the unity of 
Germany ; our good high roads and future railroads will of 
themselves do their part. But, above all, may Germany be 
one in love ! and may it always be one against the foreign 
foe ! May it be one, so that German dollars and groschen 
may be of equal value throughout the whole empire ! one, 
so that my travelling-chest may pass unopened through all 
the six-and-thirty states ! May it be one, so that the town 
passport of a citizen of Weimar may not be considered in- 
sufficient, like that of a mere foreigner, by the frontier 
officer of a large neighbouring state! May there be no 
more talk about inland and outland among the German 
states ! In fine, may Germany be one in weight and mea- 
sure, in trade and commerce, and a hundred similar things 
which I will not name ! 

" But if we imagine that the unity of Germany consists 
in this, that the very great empire should have a single 
great capital, and that this one great capital would conduce 
to the development of great individual talent, or to the 
welfare of the great mass of the people, we are in error. 

"A state has been justly compared to a living body with 
many limbs, and thus the capital of a state may be compared 
to the heart, from which life and prosperity flow to the 
individual members, near and far. But if the members be 
very distant from the heart, the life that flows to them will 
become weaker and weaker. A clever Frenchman, I think 
Dupin, has sketched a chart of the state of culture in France, 
and has exhibited the greater or less enlightenment of the 
diif erent departments by a lighter or darker colour. Now, 
some departments, particularly in the southern provinces 
remote from the capital, are represented by a perfectly 



1828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



351 



black colour, as a sign of the great darkness which prevails 
there. But would that be the case if la belle France, instead 
of one great focus, had ten foci, whence life and light might 
proceed ? 

" Whence is Germany great, but by the admirable culture 
of the people, which equally pervades all parts of the king- 
dom ? But does not this proceed from the various seats of 
government, and do not these foster and support it? 
Suppose, for centuries past, we had had in Germany only the 
two capitals, Vienna and Berlin, or only one of these, I 
should like to see how it would have fared with German 
culture, or even with that generally diffused opulence which 
goes hand in hand with culture. Germany has about 
twenty universities distributed about the whole empire, and 
about a hundred public libraries similarly distributed. 
There is also a great number of collections of art, and col- 
lections of objects belonging to all the kingdoms of nature ; 
for every prince has taken care to bring around him 
these useful and beautiful objects. There are gymnasia 
and schools for arts and industry in abundance, — nay, 
there is scarcely a German village without its school. 
And how does France stand with respect to this last point ! 

" Then look at the quantity of German theatres, the 
number of which exceeds seventy, and which are not to be 
despised as supporters and promoters of a higher cultivation 
of the people. In no country is the taste for music and 
singing, and the practice of it so widely spread, as in 
Germany ; and even that is something ! 

"And now think of such cities as Dresden, Munich, 
Stuttgard, Cassel, Brunswick, Hanover, and the like ; think 
of the great elements of life comprised within these cities ; 
think of the effect which they have upon the neighbouring 
provinces ; and ask yourself if all this would have been the 
case if they had not for a long time been the residences of 
princes ? 

"Frankfort, Bremen, Hamburg, and Liibeck, are great 
and brilliant ; their effect upon the prosperity of Germany 
is incalculable. But would they remain what they are, if 
they lost their own sovereignty and became incorporated 
with any great German kingdom as a provincial town ? I 
see reason to doubt this." 



352 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



Tues., Nov. 18. — Goethe spoke of a new article in the 
"Edinburgh Review." " It is a pleasure to me," said ho, 
" to see the elevation and excellence to which the English 
critics now rise. There is not a trace of their former 
pedantry, but its place is occupied by great qualities. 
In the last article — the one on German literature — you 
will find the following remarks : — ' There are people among 
poets who have a tendency always to occupy themselves 
with things which another likes to drive from his mind.' 
"What say you to this ? There we know at once where we 
are, and how we have to classify a great number of our 
most modern literati." 

(Sup.*) Wed, Dec. 3.— To-day, I had with Goethe a 
pleasant joke of a very particular kind. Madame Duval, of 
Centigny, in the Canton of Geneva, who is very skilful in 
preserving, had sent me, as the produce of her art, some 
citrons, for the Grand Duchess and Goethe, fully convinced 
that her preserves as far surpassed all others as Goethe's 
poems did those of most of his German contemporaries. 

The eldest daughter of this lady had long wished for 
Goethe's autograph ; it therefore occurred to me that it 
would be a good plan to decoy Goethe into writing a poem 
for my young friend, by using the citrons as a sweet bait. 

With the air of a diplomatist charged with an important 
mission I went to him, and treated with him as one power 
with another, stipulating for an original poem in his own 
handwriting, as the price of the offered citrons. Goethe 
laughed at this joke, which he took in very good part, and 
immediately asked for the citrons, which he found excellent. 
A few hours afterwards, I was much surprised to see the 
following verses arrive as a Christmas present to my young 
friend : — 

" That must be a land of bliss 
Where the citrons grow like this ! 
And where ladies find employment 
Sweetening them for our enjoyment," &c. 

When I saw him again he joked about the great advan- 
tages which he could now derive from his poetic profession, 
whereas in his youth he could not find a purchaser for his 
" Goetz von Berlichingen." "I adopt your treaty of com- 
merce," said he; "when my citrons are eaten up do not 



j828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



353 



forget to order some more; I will be punctual with my 
poetic payment." 

Tues., Dec. 16. — I dined to-day with Goethe alone, in his 
work-room. We talked on various literary topics. 

"The Germans," said he, " cannot cease to be Philistines. 
They are now squabbling about some verses, which are 
printed both in Schiller's works and mine, and fancy it is 
important to ascertain which really belong to Schiller and 
which to me ; as if anything could be gained by such in- 
vestigation — as if the existence of such things were not 
enough. Friends, such as Schiller and I, intimate for 
years, with the same interests, in habits of daily intercourse, 
and under reciprocal obligations, live so completely into 
one another, that it is hardly possible to decide to which of 
the two the particular thoughts belong. 

" We have made many distiches together ; sometimes I 
gave the thought, and Schiller made the verse ; sometimes 
the contrary was the case ; sometimes he made one line, 
and I the other. What matters the mine and thine ? One 
must be a thorough Philistine, indeed, to attach the 
slightest importance to the solution of such questions." 

" Something similar," said I, " often happens in the 
literary world, when people, for instance, doubt the 
originality of this or that celebrated man, and seek to trace 
out the sources from whence he obtained his cultivation." 

" That is very ridiculous," said Goethe ; " we might as 
well question a strong man about the oxen, sheep, and 
swine, which he has eaten, and which have given him 
strength. 

" We are indeed born with faculties ; but we owe our 
development to a thousand influences of the great world, 
from which we appropriate to ourselves what we can, and 
what is suitable to us. I owe much to the Greeks and 
French ; I am infinitely indebted to Shakspeare, Sterne, 
and Goldsmith; but in saying this I do not show the 
sources of my culture ; that would be an endless as well 
as an unnecessary task. What is important is to have a 
soul which loves truth, and receives it wherever it finds it. 

" Besides, the world is now so old, so many eminent men 
have lived and thought for thousands of years, that there 
is little new to be discovered or expressed. Even my 

2 a 



354 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1828. 



theory of colours is not entirely new. Plato, Leonardo 
da Vinci, and many other excellent men, have before me 
found and expressed the same thing in a detached form : 
my merit is, that I have found it also, that I have said it 
again, and that I have striven to bring the truth once more 
into a confused world. 

" The truth must be repeated over and over again, 
because error is repeatedly preached among us, not only 
by individuals, but by the masses. In periodicals and 
cyclopaedias, in schools and universities ; everywhere, in 
fact, error prevails, and is quite easy in the feeling that 
it has a decided majority on its side. 

" Often, too, people teach truth and error together, and 
stick to the latter. Thus, a short time ago, I read in an 
English cyclopaedia the doctrine of the origin of Blue. 
First came the correct view of Leonardo da Vinci, but 
then followed, as quietly as possible, the error of Newton, 
coupled with remarks that this was to be adhered to 
because it was the view generally adopted." 

I could not help laughing with surprise when I heard 
this. " Every wax-taper," I said, " every illuminated 
cloud of smoke from the kitchen, that has anything dark 
behind it, every morning mist, when it lies before a steady 
spot, daily convinces me of the origin of blue colour, and 
makes me comprehend the blueness of the sky. What 
the Newtonians mean when they say that the air has the 
property of absorbing other colours, and of repelling blue 
alone, I cannot at all understand, nor do I see what use or 
pleasure is to be derived from a doctrine in which all 
thought stands still, and all sound observation completely 
vanishes." 

"My good innocent friend," said Goethe, "these people 
do not care a jot about thoughts and observations. They 
are satisfied if they have only words which they can pass 
as current, as was well shown, and not ill-expressed by my 
own Mephistophiles : — 

" Mind, above all, you stick to words, 
Thus through the safe gate you will go 
Into the fane of certainty ; 
For when ideas begin to fail 
A word will aptly serve your turn," &c. 



1828.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



355 



Goethe recited this passage laughing, and seemed alto- 
gether in the best humour. " It is a good thing," said he, 
" that all is already in print, and I shall go on printing as 
long as I have anything to say against false doctrine, and 
those who disseminate it. 

"We have now excellent men rising up in natural 
science," he continued, after a pause, " and I am glad to 
see them. Others begin well, but afterwards fall off ; their 
predominating subjectivity leads them astray. Others, 
again, set too much value on facts, and collect an infinite 
number, by which nothing is proved. On the whole, there 
is a want of originating mind to penetrate back to the 
original phenomena, and master the particulars that make 
their appearance." 

A short visit interrupted our discourse, but when we 
were again alone the conversation returned to poetry, and 
I told Goethe that I had of late been once more study- 
ing his little poems, and had dwelt especially upon two 
of them, viz., the ballad * about the children and the old 
man, and the " Happy Couple " (die glucldichen Gatten). 

" I myself set some value on these two poems," said 
Goethe, " although the German public have hitherto not 
been able to make much out of them." 

"In the ballad," I said, "a very copious subject is 
brought into a very limited compass, by means of all sorts 
of poetical forms and artifices, among which I especially 
praise the expedient of making the old man tell the 
children's past history down to the point where the present 
moment comes in, and the rest is developed before our eyes." 

"I carried the ballad a long time about in my head," 
said Goethe, "before I wrote it down. Whole years of 
reflection are comprised in it, and I made three or four 
trials before I could reduce it to its present shape." 

" The poem of the ' Happy Couple,' continued Goethe, 
"is likewise rich in motives; whole landscapes and 
passages of human life appear in it, warmed by the sun- 
light of a charming spring sky, which is diffused over the 
whole." 

"I have always liked that poem," said Goethe, "and 1 
* This poem is simply entitled " Ballade," and begins " Herein, 
du Guter ! du Alter herein ! " — Trans. 

2 a2 



356 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



am glad that you have regarded it with particular interest. 
The ending of the whole pleasantry with a double christen- 
ing is, I think, pretty enough." 

We then came to the " Biirgergeneral " (Citizen- 
general) ; with respect to which I said that I had been 
lately reading this piece with an Englishman, and that we 
had both felt the strongest desire to see it represented on 
the stage. " As far as the spirit of the work is concerned," 
said 1, "there is nothing antiquated about it; and with 
respect to the details of dramatic development, there is not 
a touch that does not seem designed for the stage." 

" It was a very good piece in its time," said Goethe, 
" and caused us many a pleasant evening. It was, indeed, 
excellently cast, and had been so admirably studied that 
the dialogue moved along as glibly as possible. Malcolmi 
played Marten, and nothing could be more perfect. 

" The part of Schnaps," said I, " seems to me no less 
felicitous. Indeed, I should not think there were many 
better or more thankful parts in the repertoire. There is 
in this personage, as in the whole piece, a clearness, an 
actual presence, to the utmost extent that can be desired 
for a theatre. The scene where he comes in with the 
knapsack, and produces the things one after another, 
where he puts the moustache on Marten, and decks himself 
with the cap of liberty, uniform, and sword, is among the 
best." 

"This scene," said Goethe, "used always to be very 
successful on our stage. Then the knapsack, with the 
articles in it, had really an historical existence. I found 
it in the time of the Revolution, on my travels along the 
French border, when the emigrants, on their flight, had 
passed through, and one of them might have lost it or 
thrown it away. The articles it contained were just the 
same as in the piece. I wrote the scene upon it, and the 
knapsack, with all its appurtenances, was always introduced, 
to the no small delight of our actors." 

The question whether the " Biirgergeneral " could still 
be played with any interest or profit, was for a while the 
Subject of our conversation. 

Goethe then asked about my progress in French literature, 
and I told him that I still took up Voltaire from time 



I828.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 357 

to time, and that the great talent of this man gave me 
the purest delight. 

" I still know but little of him," said I ; " I keep to his 
short poems addressed to persons, which I read over and 
over again, and which I cannot lay aside/' 

" Indeed," said Goethe, " all is good which is written 
by so great a genius as Voltaire, though I cannot excuse 
all his profanity. But you are right to give so much time 
to those little poems addressed to persons ; they are un- 
questionably among the most charming of his works. 
There is not a line which is not full of thought, clear, 
bright, and graceful." 

"And we see," said I, "his relations to all the great 
and mighty of the world, and remark with pleasure the 
distinguished position taken by himself, inasmuch as he 
seems to feel himself equal to the highest, and we never 
find that any majesty can embarrass his free mind even for 
a moment." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "he bore himself like a man of 
rank. And with all his freedom and audacity, he ever 
kept within the limits of strict propriety, which is, perhaps, 
saying still more. I may cite the Empress of Austria as 
an authority in such matters ; she has repeatedly assured 
me, that in those poems of Voltaire's, there is no trace of 
crossing the line of convenance" 

" Does your excellency," said I, " remember the short 
poem in which he makes to the Princess of Prussia, after- 
wards Queen of Sweden, a pretty declaration of love, by 
saying that he dreamed of being elevated to the royal 
dignity ? " 

" It is one of his best," said Goethe, and he recited the 
lines — 

** Je vous aimais, princesse, et j'osais vous le dire ; 
Les Dieux a mon reveil ne m'ont pas tout ote, 
Je n'ai perdu que mon empire." 

" How pretty that is ! And never did poet have his 
talent so completely at command every moment as Vol- 
taire. I remember an anecdote, when he had been for some 
time on a visit to Madame du Chatelet. Just as he was 
going away, and the carriage was standing at the door, he 
received a letter from a great number of young girls in a 



358 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1828. 



neighbouring convent, who wished to play the ' Death of 
Julius Ccesar ' on the birth-day of their abbess, and begged 
him to write them a prologue. The case was too delicate 
for a refusal ; so Voltaire at once called for pen and paper, 
and wrote the desired prologue, standing, upon the mantle- 
piece. It is a poem of perhaps twenty lines, thoroughly 
digested, finished, perfectly suited to the occasion, and, in 
short, of the very best class." 

"I am very desirous to read it," said I. 

" I doubt," said Goethe, " whether you will find it in 
your collection. It has only lately come to light, and, in- 
deed, he wrote hundreds of such poems, of which many 
may still be scattered about among private persons." 

" I found of late, a passage in Lord Byron," said I, 
"from which I perceived with delight that even Byron had 
an extraordinary esteem for Voltaire. We may see in his 
works how much he liked to read, study, and make use of 
Voltaire." 

"Byron," said Goethe, " knew too well where anything 
was to be got, and was too clever not to draw from this 
universal source of light." 

The conversation then turned entirely upon Byron, and 
several of his works, and Goethe found occasion to repeat 
many of his former expressions of admiration for that great 
talent. 

"To all that your Excellency says of Byron," said I, 
" I agree from the bottom of my heart ; but, however great 
and remarkable that poet may be as a talent, I very much 
doubt whether a decided gain for pure human culture is to 
be derived from his writings." 

"There I must contradict you," said Goethe; "the 
audacity and grandeur of Byron must certainly tend to- 
wards culture. We should take care not to be always 
looking for it in the decidedly pure and moral. Everything 
that is great promotes cultivation as soon as we are aware 
of it." 

(Sup.) Sun., Bee. 21. — Last night I had a strange dream, 
which I related to Goethe this evening, and which he 
thought very pleasant. I imagined myself in a foreign 
town, in a broad street, towards the south-east, where I 
stood with a crowd of men, and watched the heavens, 



1828.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 359 

which appeared covered with a light rnist and shone with 
the brightest yellow. Every one was full of expectation as 
to what would happen, when two fiery points appeared, 
which, like meteor stones, fell to the ground before us with a 
crash, not far from the spot where we were standing. We 
hastened to see what had fallen, and behold ! there stood 
before me Faust and Mephistophiles. I was both delighted 
and astonished, and joining them as acquaintance, walked 
along with them in cheerful conversation, turning the next 
corner of a street. 

What we said I do not remember, yet the impression of 
their personal appearance was so peculiar, that it is still 
perfectly distinct to me, and not easily to be forgotten. 
Both were younger than one is accustomed to consider them j 
and, indeed, Mephistophiles might have been about one- 
and-twenty years of age, and Faust about seven-and- 
twenty. The former appeared thoroughly gentlemanlike, 
cheerful, and free ; and stepped along as lightly as any 
Mercury. His countenance was handsome, without malice ; 
and one would not have discerned that he was the devil, 
had it not been for two elegant horns which sprouted from 
his youthful forehead, and turned sideways, just as a beau- 
tiful growth of hair raises itself, and then turns to each 
side. When, as we went along, Faust, in speaking, turned 
his countenance towards me, I was astonished at the peculi- 
arity of the expression ; the noblest moral feeling and bene- 
volence spoke in every feature, as the prevailing original 
character of his nature. He appeared as if, in spite of his 
youth, all human joys, sorrows, and thoughts had already 
passed through his soul, so careworn was his countenance. 
He was rather pale, and so attractive that one could not 
look at him enough. I endeavoured to impress his features 
upon my mind, in order to draw them. Faust walked on 
the right, Mephistophiles between us two, and I still retain 
the impression of the manner in which Faust turned his 
fine peculiar countenance, in order to speak with Mephis- 
tophiles or with me. We went through the streets, and 
the crowd dispersed without taking further notice of us. 



360 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l829. 



1829. 

Wed., Feb. 4. — "I have continued to read Schubart," 
said Goethe. " He is, indeed, a remarkable man, and he 
says much that is excellent, if we translate it into our own 
language. The chief tendency of his book is to show that 
there is a point of view beyond the sphere of philosophy, — 
namely, that of common-sense ; and that art and science, 
independently of philosophy, and by means of a free action 
of natural hnman powers, have always thriven best. This 
is grist for our mill. I have always kept myself free from 
philosophy. The common-sense point of view was also 
mine; and hence Schubart confirms what I myself have 
been saying and doiug all my life. 

" The only thing I cannot commend in him is this, that 
he knows certain things better than he will confess, and 
does not therefore go quite honestly to work. Like Hegel, 
he would bring the Christian religion into philosophy, 
though it really has nothing to do with it. Christianity has 
a might of its own, by which dejected, suffering humanity 
is re-elevated from time to time, and when we grant it tins 
power, it is raised above all philosophy, and needs no sup- 
port therefrom. Neither does the philosopher need the 
countenance of religion to prove certain doctrines ; as, for 
instance, eternal duration. Man should believe in immor- 
tality ; he has a right to this belief ; it corresponds with 
the wants of his nature, and he may believe in the promises 
of religion. But if the philosopher tries to deduce the im- 
mortality of the soul from a legend, that is very weak and 
inefficient. To me, the eternal existence of my soul is 
proved from my idea of activity ; if I work on incessantly 
till my death, nature is bound to give me another form of 
existence when the present one can no longer sustain my 
spirit." 

My heart, at these words, beat with admiration and love. 

"Never," thought I, "was a doctrine spoken more 
inciting to noble minds than this. For who will not work 
and act indefatigably to the end of his days, when he finds 
therein the pledge of an eternal life ? " 

Goethe had a portfolio brought, full of drawings and 



I82 9 .] 



CONVERSATIONS 0*' GOETHE. 



361 



engravings. After lie had looked at some in silence, he 
showed me a fine engraving after a picture of Ostade's. 

"Here," said he, "you have the scene of our goodman 
and goodwife." 

I looked at the engraving with much pleasure. I saw 
the interior of a peasant's dwelling, with kitchen, parlour, 
and bed-room, all in one. Man and wife sat opposite one 
another ; the wife spinning, the husband winding yarn ; a 
child at their feet. In the background was a bed, and 
everywhere there was nothing but the rudest and most 
necessary household utensils. The door led at once into 
the open air. This idea of a happy marriage in a very 
limited condition was perfectly conveyed by this engraving ; 
comfort, content, and a certain luxuriance in the loving 
emotions of matrimony, were expressed in the face of both 
man and wife, as they looked upon one another. 

" The longer one looks," said I, " at this picture, the 
happier one feels ; it has quite a peculiar charm." 

" It i3 the charm of sensuality," said Goethe, " with 
which no art can dispense, and which in subjects of this 
kind reigns in all its fulness. On the other hand, in 
works of a higher kind, when the artist goes into the 
ideal, it is difficult to keep up the proper degree of sensu- 
ality, so as not to become dry and cold. Then youth or 
age may be favourable or impeding, and hence the artist 
should reflect on his age, and select his subjects accordingly. 
I succeeded with my * Iphigenia ' and ' Tasso,' because I 
was young enough to penetrate and animate the ideal of 
the stuff with sensual feeling. At my present age, such 
ideal subjects would no longer be suited to me, and I do 
right in selecting those which comprise within themselves 
a certain degree of sensuality. If the Genasts stay here, 
I shall write two pieces for you, both in one act and in 
prose. One will be of the most cheerful kind, and end 
with a wedding ; the other will be shocking and terrible, 
and two corpses will be on the stage at the termination. 
The latter proceeds from Schiller's time, who wrote a 
scene of it at my request. I have long thought over both 
these subjects, and they are so completely present to my 
mind, that I could dictate either of them in a week, as I 
did my ' Biirgergeneral.' " 



3G2 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1829. 

" Do so," said I ; "write the two pieces at all events ; 
it will be a recreation to you after the ' Wander jahre,' 
and will operate like a little journey. And how pleased the 
world would be, if, contrary to the expectation of every 
one, you did something more for the stage." 

" As I said," continued Goethe, " if the Genasts stay 
here, I am not sure that I shall, not indulge in this little 
pleasantry. But without this prospect there is but small 
inducement ; for a play upon paper is nought. The poet 
must know the means with which he has to work, and 
must adapt his characters to the actors who are to play 
them. If I can reckon upon Genast and his wife, and take 
besides La Roche, Herr Winterberger, and Madame Seidel, 
I know what I have to do, and can be certain that my 
intentions will be carried out. 

"Writing for the stage," he continued, "is something 
peculiar, and he who does not understand it thoroughly, 
had better leave it alone. Every one thinks that an 
interesting fact will appear interesting on the boards, — 
nothing of the kind ! Things may be very pretty to read, 
and very pretty to think about ; but as soon as they are 
put upon the stage the effect is quite different, and that 
which has charmed us in the closet will probably fall flat 
on the boards. If any one reads my ' Hermann and 
Dorothea,' he thinks it might be brought out at the 
theatre. Topfer has been inveigled into the experiment ; 
but what is it, what effect does it produce, especially if it 
is not played in a first-rate manner, and who can say that 
it is in every respect a good piece ? Writing for the stage 
is a trade that one must understand, and requires a talent 
that one must possess. Both are uncommon, and where 
they are not combined, we shall scarcely have any good 
result." 

Mon., Feb. 9. — Goethe talked of the " Wahlverwandt- 
schaften," especially remarking, that a person whom he 
had never seen or known in his life had supposed the 
character of Mittler to be meant for himself. 

" There must," said he, " be some truth in the character, 
and it must have existed ^more than once in the world. 
Indeed, there is not a line in the ' Wahlverwandt- 
schaften ' that is not taken from my own experience, and 



1829.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 363 

there is more in it than can be gathered by any one from 
a first reading." 

Tues., Feb. 10. — I f onnd Goethe surrounded by maps and 
plans referring to the building of the Bremen harbour, 
for which great undertaking he showed an especial interest. 

There was then much talk about Merck, and Goethe 
read me a poetical epistle written from Merck to Wieland 
in 1776, in very spirited but somewhat hard, doggrel 
verse (Kniittelverse). The lively production is especially 
directed against Jacobi, whom Wieland seems to have 
over-estimated in a critique in the Merlcur — a fault which 
Merck cannot pardon. 

We then talked of the state of culture at the time, and 
how difficult it was to emerge from the so-called storm-and- 
stress period to a higher culture ; of his first years in 
Wiemar ; of the poetic talent in conflict with the reality, 
which he, from his position at court, and the various sorts 
of service demanded of him, was, for his own higher advan- 
tage, obliged to encounter. Hence nothing poetical of im- 
portance was produced during the first ten years. He 
read several fragments, and snowed how he was saddened 
by love affairs, and how his father always was impatient 
of the court life. 

Then we came to the advantage that he did not change 
his place of abode, and was not obliged to go twice 
through the same experience ; then came his flight to 
Italy, in order to revive his poetic power, — the superstitious 
fancy that he would not succeed if any one knew about 
it, and the profound secrecy in consequence ; how he 
wrote to the Grand Duke from Rome, and returned from 
Italy with great requisitions upon himself. 

Next we talked of the Duchess Amelia — a perfect 
princess, with perfectly sound sense, and an inclination 
for the enjoyment of life. She was very fond of Goethe's 
mother, and wished her to come to Wiemar, but he 
opposed it. 

Then about the first beginnings of " Faust." — " ' Faust ' 
sprang up at the same time with ' Werther.' I brought it 
with me in 1775 to Wiemar; I had written it on letter 
paper, and had not made an erasure, for I took care not to 
write down a line that was not worthy to remain." 



364 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



Wed., Feb. 11. — Oberbaudirector Coudray dined with 
me at Goethe's bouse. He spoke much of the Female 
School of Industry and the Orphan's Institute, as the best 
establishments in their kind of this country. The first was 
founded by the Grand Duchess ; the latter by the Grand 
Duke, Charles Augustus. Much was said about theatrical 
decoration and road-making. Coudray showed Goethe a 
sketch for a prince's chapel. "With respect to the place 
of the ducal chair, Goethe made some objections, to which 
Coudray yielded. 

Soret came after dinner. Goethe showed us once more 
the pictures of Herr von Reutern. 

Thurs., Feb. 12. — Goethe read me the thoroughly noble 
poem, " Kein Wesen kann zu nichts zerf alien " (No being 
can dissolve to nothing), which he had lately written. 

" I wrote this poem," said he, " in contradiction to my 
lines — 

( Denn alles muss zu nichts zerfallen 
Wenn es im Seyn beharren will,' &c. 

' For all must melt away to nothing 
Would it continue still to be ; ' 

which are stupid, and which my Berlin friends, on the 
occasion of the late assembly of natural philosophers, set 
up in golden letters, to my annoyance." 

The conversation turned on the great mathematician, 
Lagrange, whose excellent character Goethe highly ex- 
tolled. 

"He was a good man," said he, "and on that very 
account, a great man. For when a good man is gifted 
with talent, he always works morally for the salvation of 
the world, as poet, philosopher, artist, or in whatever way 
it may be. 

"I am glad," continued Goethe, "that you had an 
opportunity yesterday of knowing Coudray better. He 
says little in general society, but, here among ourselves, 
you have seen what an excellent mind and character 
reside in the man. He had, at first, much opposition to 
encounter, but he has now fought through it all, and 
enjoys the entire confidence and favour of the court. 
Coudray is one of the most skilful architects of our time. 
He has adhered to me and I to him, and this has been of 



1829.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 365 

service to us both. If I had but known him fifty 
years ago ! " 

We then talked about Goethe's own architectural 
knowledge. I remarked that he must have acquired much 
in Italy. 

" Italy gave me an idea of earnestness and greatness," 
said he, " but no practical skill. The building of the 
castle here in Wiemar advanced me more than anything. 
I was obliged to assist, and even to make drawings of 
entablatures. I had a certain advantage over the pro- 
fessional people, because I was superior to them in in- 
tention." 

We talked of Zelter. 

" I have a letter from him," said Goethe, "in which he 
complains that the performance of the oratorio of the 
Messiah was spoiled for him by one of his female scholars, 
who sang an aria too weakly and sentimentally. Weak- 
ness is a characteristic of our age. My hypothesis is, that 
it is a consequence of the efforts made in Germany to 
get rid of the French. Painters, natural philosophers, 
sculptors, musicians, poets, with but few exceptions, all are 
weak, and the general mass is no better." 

"Yet I do not give up the hope," said T, "of seeing 
suitable music composed for ' Faust.'" 

" Quite impossible ! " said Goethe. " The awful and 
repulsive passages which must occasionally occur, are not 
in the style of the time. The music should be like that 
of Don Juan. Mozart should have composed for ' Faust.' 
Meyerbeer would, perhaps, be capable ; but he would not 
touch anything of the kind ; * he is too much engaged 
with the Italian theatres." 

Afterwards — I do not recollect in connection to what — 
Goethe made the following important remark : — 

" All that is great and skilful exists with the minority. 
There have been ministers who have had both king and 
people against them, and have carried out their great plans 
alone. It is not to be imagined that reason can ever be 
popular. Passions and feelings may become popular ; but 

* It must be borne in mind that this was said before the appear- 
ance of " Eobert le Diable," which was first produced in Paris, in 
November, 1831. — Trans. 



366 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



reason always remains the sole property of a few eminent 
individuals." 

Fri., Feb. 13. — Dined with Goethe alone. 

" After I have finished the ' Wanderjahre,' " said he, "I 
shall turn to botany again to continue the translation with 
Soret ; I only fear it may lead me too far, and at last prove 
an incubus. Great secrets still lie hidden ; much I know, 
and of much I have an intimation. I will confide some- 
thing to you that will sound odd. 

" The plant goes from knot to knot, closing at last with 
the flower and the seed. In the animal kingdom it is not 
otherwise. The caterpillar and the tape-worm go from 
knot to knot, and at last form a head. With the higher 
animals and man, the vertebral bones grow one upon another, 
and terminate with the head, in which the powers are con- 
centrated. 

" With corporations it is the same as with individuals. 
The bees, a series of individuals, connected one with another, 
at least as a community, produce something, which is the 
conclusion, and may be regarded as the head of the whole 
— the queen-bee. How this is managed is a mystery, hard 
to be expressed, but I may say that I have my thoughts 
upon it. 

" Thus does a nation bring forth its heroes, who stand at 
the head like demigods to protect and save. Thus were 
the poetic powers of the French concentrated in Voltaire. 
Such heads of a nation are great in the generation in which 
they work ; many last longer, but the greater part have 
their places supplied by others, and are forgotten by pos- 
terity." 

I was pleased with these remarkable thoughts. Goethe 
then spoke of the natural philosophers, with whom the 
great point was to prove their opinion. 

" Herr von Buch," said he, " has published a new book, 
which contains a hypothesis in its very title. He has to 
treat of the blocks of granite which are scattered about in 
various directions, without our knowing how or whence 
they came. But as Herr von Buch entertains the hypothesis 
that such blocks have been cast forth, and shivered by some 
internal force, he indicates this in his title, by making men- 
tion 01 dispersed (Zerstreut) granite-blocks, so that the step 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



367 



to dispersion (Zerstreuung) is very snort, and the unsus- 
pecting reader finds himself in the toils of error he does 
not know how. 

" One must be old to see all this, and have money enough 
to pay for one's experience. Every bon mot that I utter 
costs me a purseful of money ; half a million of my private 
fortune has passed through my hands that I might learn 
what I know now; — not only the whole of my father's 
fortune, but my own salary, and my large literary income 
for more than fifty years. I have, besides, seen a million 
and a half expended for great objects by the princes, with 
whom I have been intimately connected, and in whose pro- 
gress, success, and failure I have been interested. 

"More than mere talent is required to become a pro- 
ficient. One must also live amid important circumstances, 
and have an opportunity of watching the cards held by 
the players of the age, and of participating in their gain 
and loss. 

" Without my attempts in natural science, I should never 
have learned to know mankind such as it is. In nothing 
else can we so closely approach pure contemplation and 
thought, so closely observe the errors of the senses and of 
the understanding, the weak and the strong points of 
character. All is more or less pliant and wavering, is 
more or less manageable ; but nature understands no jesting; 
she is always true, always serious, always severe ; she is 
always right, and the errors and faults are always those 
of man. Him, who is incapable of appreciating her, she 
despises ; and only to the apt, the pure, and the true, does 
she resign herself, and reveal her secrets. 

" The understanding will not reach her ; man must be 
capable of elevating himself to the highest Reason, to come 
into contact with the Divinity, which manifests itself in the 
primitive phenomena (Urpheyiomenen), which dwells behind 
them, and from which they proceed. 

" The divinity works in the living not in the dead ; in 
the becoming and changing, not in the become and the 
fixed. Therefore reason, with its tendency towards the 
divine, has only to do with the becoming, the living ; but 
understanding with the become, the already fixed, that it 
may make use of it. 



368 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



" Hence, mineralogy is a science for the understanding, 
for practical life ; for its subjects are something dead, which 
cannot rise again, and there is no room for synthesis. 

" The subjects of meteorology are, indeed, something 
living, which we daily see working and producing; they 
presuppose a synthesis, only so many are the co-operating 
circumstances, that man is not equal to this synthesis, and 
therefore uselessly wearies himself in observations and in- 
quiries. We steer by hypothesis to imaginary islands ; but 
the proper synthesis will probably remain an undiscovered 
country ; and I do not wonder at this, when I consider how 
difficult it is to obtain any synthesis even in such simple 
things as plants and colours." 

Svai., Feb. 15, — Goethe received me with much praise, 
on account of my arrangement of the natural-historical 
aphorisms for the " Wander j ah re." "Devote yourself to 
nature," said he ; "you are born for that purpose, and as 
the next task, write a compendium of the 'Theory of 
Colours.' 99 We spoke much on this subject. 

A chest arrived from the Lower Rhine, containing some 
antique coins which had been dug up, minerals, small 
cathedral-figures, and carnival-poems, all of which were 
unpacked after dinner. 

Tues., Feb. 17. — We talked a great deal about Goethe's 
" Grosskophta." 

"Lavater," said Goethe, "believed in Cagliostro and his 
wonders. When the impostor was unmasked, Lavater 
maintained, ' This is another Cagliostro, the Cagliostro who 
did the wonders was a holy person.' 

"Lavater was a truly good man, but subject to strong 
delusions ; the whole sole truth was not to his mind ; he 
deceived himself and others. This made a perfect breach 
between him and me. The last time I saw him was in 
Zurich ; and he did not see me. I was coming in disguise 
down an avenue ; seeing him approach, I stepped aside, and 
he passed without recognizing me. He walked like a crane, 
and therefore figures as a crane on the Blocksberg." * 

I asked whether Lavater had a tendency to observe 
nature, as we might almost infer from the " Physiognomy." 

* That is to Kay, id the intermezzo in u Faust." — Trans. 



1829.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 369 

"Not in the least," said Goethe. "His tendency was 
wholly towards the moral — the religions. That part of his 
' Physiognomy ' which relates to the sknlls of animals he 
got from me." 

The conversation tnrned npon the French — npon the 
lectures of Guizot, Yillemain, and Consin. Goethe spoke 
with high esteem of the point of view taken by these men ; 
saying that they observed everything on a free and new 
side, and always went straight to their aim. 

"It is," said Goethe, "as if till now we had reached a 
garden throngh roundabout, crooked ways ; these men, 
however, have been bold and free enough to pull down a 
wall, and put a door, so that we get at once into the broadest 
walk of the garden." 

From Cousin we passed to Indian philosophy. 

" This philosophy," said Goethe, " if what the Englishman 
tells us is true, has nothing foreign, but, on the contrary, 
the epochs through which we all pass are repeated in it. 
"When we are children, we are sensualists ; idealists when 
we love, and attribute to the beloved object qualities which 
she does not naturally possess. Love wavers; we doubt 
her fidelity, and are sceptics before we think of it. The 
rest of life is indifferent ; we let it go as it will, and end. 
like the Indian philosophers, with quietism. 

"In the German philosophy there are still two great 
works to do. Kant did an infinite deal, by writing the 
' Critique of Pure Reason ; 1 but the circle is not yet com- 
plete. Now, some able man should write the ' Critique of 
the Senses and Understanding of Man ; ' and, if this could 
be as well done, we should have little more to desire in 
German philosophy. 

"Hegel," continued Goethe, "has written, in the Berlin 
Jahrbiicher, a criticism upon Hamann, which I, of late, have 
read over and over again, and must highly praise. Hegel's 
judgments as a critic have always been excellent. 

"Villemain, too, stands very high in criticism. The 
French will, indeed, never see another talent to cope with 
Yoltaire ; but we can say of Yillemain, that he is so far 
elevated above Yoltaire by his intellectual point of view, as 
to be able to jndge him in his virtues and his faults." 

Wed., Feb. 18— We talked of the Theory of Colours, and 

2 B 



370 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



among other tHngs about drinking glasses, the dull figures 
on which appear yellow against the light, and blue against 
the dark, and therefore allow the observation of a primitive 
phenomenon. 

" The highest which man can attain in these matters," 
said Goethe, on this occasion, " is astonishment ; if the 
primary phenomenon causes this, let him be satisfied ; 
more it cannot bring ; and he should forbear to seek for 
anything further behind it: here is the limit. But the 
sight of a primitive phenomenon is generally not enough 
for people ; they think they must go still further ; and are 
thus like children who, after peeping into a mirror, turn it 
round directly to see what is on the other side." 

The conversation turned upon Merck, and I asked 
whether he had ever meddled with natural science. 

"Yes," said Goethe, "he had even fine collections. 
Merck was altogether an extremely many-sided man. He 
loved art also ; and if he saw a good work in the hands of 
a Philistine, of whom he thought that he did not know 
how to value it, he used every means to get it for his own 
collection. In such matters, he had no conscience ; he 
considered all means fair, and did not despise even a 
sort of sublime fraud, if he could not attain his object 
otherwise." 

Goethe related some interesting examples of this pecu- 
liarity. 

" A man like Merck," continued he, " will not again be 
born, and if he were, the world would model him into a 
very different person. That was a good time when Merck 
and I were young! German literature was yet a clean 
tablet, on which one hoped to paint good things with 
pleasure. Now, it is so scribbled over and soiled, that 
there is no pleasure in looking at it, and a wise man does 
not know whereabouts he can inscribe anything." 

Thurs., Feb. 19. — Dined with Goethe tete-a-tete in his 
work-room. He was very cheerful, and told me that much 
which was good had lately befallen him, and that an affair 
with Artaria and the court had come to a happy termi- 
nation. 

We then talked a great deal about "Egmont," which 
had been represented, according to Schiller's version, on the 



1829.] CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 371 

preceding evening, and the injury done to the piece by this 
version was brought under discussion. 

"For many reasons," said I, "the Regent should not 
have been omitted; on the contrary, she is thoroughly 
necessary to the piece. Not only does this princess impart 
to the whole a higher, nobler character, but the political 
relations especially of the Spanish court are brought 
much more clearly to view by her conversation with 
Machiavelli." 

"Unquestionably," said Goethe. "And then Egmont 
gains in dignity from the lustre which the partiality of this 
princess casts upon him, while Clara also seems exalted 
when we see that, vanquishing even princesses, she alone has 
all Egmont's love. These are very delicate effects, which 
cannot be obliterated without compromising the whole." 

" It seems to me, too," said I, " that where there are so 
many important male parts, a single female personage like 
Clara appears too weak and somewhat overpowered. By 
means of the Regent the picture is better balanced. It is 
not enough that the Regent is talked of ; her personal 
entrance makes the impression." 

"You judge rightly," said Goethe. "When I wrote the 
piece I well weighed everything, as you may imagine ; and 
hence it is no wonder that the whole materially suffers, 
when a principal figure is torn out of it, which has been 
conceived for the sake of the whole, and through which 
the whole exists. But Schiller had something violent in 
his nature ; he often acted too much according to a precon- 
ceived idea, without sufficient regard to the subject which 
he had to treat." 

" You may be blamed also," said I, " for allowing the 
alteration, and granting him such unlimited liberty in so 
important a matter." 

" We often act more from indifference than kindness," 
replied Goethe. " Then, at that time, I was deeply occu- 
pied with other things. I had no interest for Egmont or 
for the stage, so I let Schiller have his own way. Now it 
is, at any rate, a consolation for me that the work exists in 
print, and that there are theatres where people are wise 
enough to perform it, as it is written, without abbreviation." 

Goethe then asked me about the Theory of Colours, and 

2b2 



372 CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. [1829. 

whether I had thought any more of his proposal to write a 
compendmm. I told him how the matter stood, and we 
fell unadvisedly' into a difference of opinion, which I 
will describe, on account of the importance of the subject. 

Whoever has made the observation, will recollect that on 
a clear winter's day, and in the sunlight, the shadows cast 
upon the snow frequently appear blue. This is classed by 
Goethe, in his Theory of Colours, under the subjective 
phenomena, for he assumes as a principle that the sunlight 
comes down to us — who do not live on high mountain-tops 
— not perfectly white, but, penetrating through an atmo- 
sphere more or less misty, has a yellowish lustre ; so that 
the snow, when the sun shines upon it, is not perfectly white, 
but is a surface tinged with yellow, which charms the eye 
to opposition, and therefore to the production of the blue 
colour. The blue shadow seen upon the snow is, according 
to this view, a demanded colour* under which rubric Goethe 
places the phenomenon, and then very consistently explains 
the observations made by Saussure on Mount Blanc. 

When of late I again looked over the first chapters of the 
Theory of Colours, to try whether I could act upon Goethe's 
friendly proposal, and write a Compendium of the Theory, 
I was enabled by the snow and sunshine to observe more 
closely the phenomenon of the blue shadow, and found to 
my astonishment that Goethe's inference was founded on 
error. How I came by this discovery I will explain. 

The windows of my apartment look due south upon a 
garden, bounded by a building, which, from the lower 
altitude of the sun in winter, casts towards me a shadow 
long enough to cover half the garden. 

I looked upon this broad shadow on the snow some days 
ago, while the sky was quite blue and the sun was bright, 
and was astonished to see the whole surface perfectly 
blue. "This," said I to myself, "cannot be a 'demanded 
colour,' for my eye is not brought into contact with any 
surface of snow illumined by the sun, so that the required 
contrast could be produced. On the contrary, I see nothing 
but the expanse of blue shadow." However, to be quite 

* " Geforderle Farbe," that is to say, a colour called forth bv the 
eye itself, according to Goethe's peculiar theory, as explained above. 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OTP GOETHE. 



373 



certain, and to prevent the dazzling light of the neigh- 
bouring houses from affecting my eye, I rolled up a sheet 
of paper, and looked through it on the shaded surface, 
when I found that the blue remained unaltered. 

That this blue shadow could be nothing subjective was 
now established in my mind beyond a doubt. There stood 
the colour, without me, independent — my subject had no 
influence upon it. But what was it? And as it was 
certainly there, how was it produced ? 

I looked once more, and, behold, the riddle was solved 
for me ! " What can it be," said I to myself, " but the 
reflection of the blue sky, which is brought down by the 
shade, and has an inclination to settle there ? For it is 
written — Colour is akin to shade, readily combines with it, 
and readily appears to us in it and by it, as soon as an 
occasion is presented." 

The following days gave me an opportunity to confirm 
my hypothesis. I walked about the fields ; there was no 
blue sky, the sun shone through foggy mists, and spread a 
perfectly yellow light over the snow. It was strong enough 
to cast a decided shadow, and in this case, according to 
Goethe's doctrine, the brightest blue should have been pro- 
duced. However, there was no blue ; the shadows remained 
grey. 

On the following forenoon, when the atmosphere was 
cloudy, the sun peeped out from time to time, and cast 
decided shadows upon the snow. Again, they were not 
blue, but grey. In both cases the reflection of the blue sky 
was wanting to give the shadow its colour. 

I was thus sufficiently convinced that Goethe's deduction 
of this natural phenomenon was proved to be fallacious, 
and that the paragraphs in the " Theory of Colours " which 
treated of this subject were much in need of modification. 

Something similar occurred to me with the coloured 
double shadows, which are seen to peculiar advantage by 
taperlight at break of day, or at the beginning of evening 
twilight, as well as by a clear moonlight. That one of 
the shadows, namely the yellow one, shone upon by the 
taper-light is of an objective kind, and belongs to the 
doctrine of dense media, Goethe has not expressly said, 
although such is the case; the other one, the bluish or 



374 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



bluish- green shadow, shone npon by the pnrest day or 
moon light, he declares to be subjective — a "demanded 
colour,'' produced in the eye by the yellow light of the 
taper diffused over the white paper. 

Now. on a careful observation of the phenomenon, I did 
not find this doctrine thoroughly confirmed. On the 
contrary, it appeared to me that the weak day or moon 
light, acting from without, already brought with it a bluish 
tone, which is strengthened partly by the shadow, partly 
by the " demanding " (fordernd) yellow light of the taper, 
and that therefore we have an objective foundation here also. 

That the dawning day and the moon cast a pale light is 
well known. A countenance seen at break of day, or by 
moonlight, appears pale, as is sufficiently proved by ex- 
periment. Shakspeare seems to have been aware of this 
fact, for in that remarkable passage, where Romeo leaves 
his beloved at daybreak, and he and Juliet suddenly appear 
so pale to each other, the observation of it must assuredly 
have served as a foundation. The operation of this light 
in producing paleness would of itself be a sufficient indi- 
cation that it must bring with it a greenish or bluish tinge, 
since it has precisely the same effect as a mirror of bluish 
or greenish glass. The following may serve as a further 
confirmation : — 

Light, as seen by the mind's eye, may be conceived as 
completely white ; but the empirical- light, as perceived 
by the corporeal eye, is seldom seen in such purity. On 
the contrary, it has a tendency to take either the plus or the 
minus side, and to appear with either a yellowish or a bluish 
tone. In this case, the immediate sunlight, as well as the 
taperlight, inclines decidedly to the plus side — the yellow- 
ish ; but the light of the moon, as well as that of dawn and 
evening twilight, neither of which are direct, but only re- 
flected, and are further modified by twilight and night, in- 
cline to the passive — the minus side, and have a bluish tone 
to the eye. 

Let any one place a sheet of white paper in the twilight 
or moonlight, so that one-half of it may be shone upon by 
the day or moon light, and the other by the taperlight, 
then one-half will have a bluish, the other a yellowish tone ; 
and both lights, without any addition of shade, or any sub- 



I82 9 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



375 



jective heightening, will have already ranged themselves on 
the active or the passive side. 

The resnlt of my observations, therefore, was, that even 
Goethe's doctrine of the coloured double shadow was not 
thoroughly correct; that in the production of this phe- 
nomenon there was more of the objective than he had 
observed, and that the law of subjective "demand" (For- 
derung) could be looked upon as merely secondary. 

Indeed, generally, if the human eye were so sensitive and 
susceptible, that at the slightest contact of one colour it had 
an immediate tendency to produce the opposite, it would be 
constantly transferring one colour into another, so that the 
most unpleasant mixture would arise. 

Fortunately, however, this is not the case ; but, on the 
contrary, a healthy eye is so organized that it either does 
not observe the "demanded" colours, or if its attention 
is directed towards them, produces them with difficulty ; 
indeed, this operation requires some practice and dexterity 
before it can succeed even under favourable circumstances. 

What is really characteristic in such subjective pheno- 
mena, viz., that the eye to a certain extent requires a strong 
incitement to produce them, and that when they are pro- 
duced they have no permanence, but are transient and 
quickly fading, has been too little regarded by Goethe, both 
in the case of the blue shadow in the snow, and in that of 
the coloured double- shadow- for in both cases the surface in 
question has a scarcely perceptible tinge, and in both cases 
the " demanded " colour appears decidedly marked at the 
very first glance. 

But Goethe, with his adherence to a law he had once 
recognized, and with his maxim of applying it even in such 
cases where it seems concealed, could easily be tempted to 
extend a synthesis too far, and to discern a favourite law 
even in cases where a totally different influence is at work. 

When to-day he spoke of his Theory of Colours, and 
asked how the proposed compendium was going on, I would 
willingly have passed over my new discoveries in silence, 
for I felt in some perplexity as to how I should tell him the 
t truth without offending him. 

Nevertheless, as I was really in earnest with respect to the 
compendium, it was necessary to remove all errors, and to 



376 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



rectify all misunderstandings, before I could make a sure 
progress in the task. 

All that I could do was to make the frank confession to 
him that, after careful observation, I found myself com- 
pelled to differ from him in some points, inasmuch as I 
found that neither his deduction of the blue shadow in the 
snow, nor his doctrine of the coloured double-shadow, was 
completely confirmed. 

I communicated to him my thoughts and observations ; 
but as I have not the gift of describing objects fully and 
clearly by word of mouth, I confined myself to a statement 
of the results of my observation, without going into a more 
minute explanation of details, intending to do this in writing. 

However, I had scarcely opened my mouth, when 
Goethe's sublimely- serene countenance became clouded 
over, and I saw but too clearly that he did not approve of 
my objections. 

" Truly," said I, "he who would get the better of your 
Excellency must rise early in the morning ; but yet it is 
possible that the wise may go too far, and the foolish 
find the spoil." 

"As if, forsooth, you had found it," returned Goethe, 
with an ironical laugh ; " with your idea of coloured light 
you belong to the fourteenth century, and with all the rest 
you are in the very abyss of dialectics. The only thing 
good about you is that you are, at any rate, honest enough 
to speak out plainly what you think. 

"My Theory of Colours," he continued, "fares just the 
same as the Christian religion. One fancies, for a while, 
that one has faithful disciples ; but, before one is aware, 
they fall oh and form a new sect. You are a heretic like 
the rest, for you are not the first that has apostatized. I 
have fallen out with the most excellent men about con- 
tested points in the Theory of Colours, viz., with about 

, and with about ." Here he mentioned 

some names of eminence. 

We had now finished eating, conversation came to a 
standstill, and Goethe rose and placed himself against tho 
window. I went up to him and pressed his hand, for I 
loved him in spite of his taunts, and I felt, moreover, that 
I was right, and that he was the suffering party. 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



377 



Before long, we were again talking and joking about in- 
different subjects ; but when I went to him, and told him 
that he should have my objections in writing for a closer 
examination, and that the only reason he did not agree with 
me lay in the clumsiness of my verbal statement, he could 
not help, half-laughing and half -sneering, throwing in my 
teeth something about heretics and heresy at the very 
doorway. 



If it should appear strange that Goethe could not readily 
bear contradiction with respect to his Theory of Colours, 
while with respect to his political works he always showed 
himself perfectly easy, and heard every well-founded ob- 
jection with thanks, we may perhaps solve the riddle by 
reflecting that, as a poet, he received the most perfect satis- 
faction from without, while, by the Theory of Colours, the 
greatest and most difficult of his works, he had gained no- 
thing but censure and disapproval. During half a life he 
had been annoyed by the most senseless opposition on every 
side, and it was natural enough that he should always find 
himself in a sort of irritable polemic position, and be always 
fully armed for a passionate conflict. 

His feeling for the Theory of Colours was like that of a 
mother who loves an excellent cliild all the more the less it 
is esteemed by others. 

"As for what I have done as a poet," he would 
repeatedly say ^to me, " I take no pride in it whatever. 
Excellent poets have lived at the same time with myself, 
poets more excellent have lived before me, and others will 
come after me. But that in my century I am the only per- 
son who knows the truth in the difficult science of colours 
— of that, I say, I am not a little proud, and here I have a 
consciousness of a superiority to many." 

Fri., Feb. 20. — Dined with Goethe. He is pleased at 
having finished the " Wander jahre," which he will send off 
to-morrow. In the Theory of Colours he is coming over a 
little to my opinion concerning the blue shadow in the 
snow. He talked of his " Italian journey," which he had 
iigain taken under consideration.* 

* There is no occasion to explain the slight omission here. — Trams. 



378 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l820. 



He then talked about tlie fourth volume of his Life, and 
the method in which he would treat it; saying that my 
notes on the year 1824, concerning what he had already 
executed and planned, would be highly useful to him. 

He read Gottling's journal aloud, which treats of the 
former fencing-masters at Jena in a very kindly spirit. 
Goethe speaks very well of Gottling. 

Mon., Mar. 23. — " I have found a paper of mine among 
some others," said Goethe to-day, "in which I call archi. 
tecture 'petrified music' Really there is something in this ; 
the tone of mind produced by architecture approaches the 
effect of music. 

" Splendid edifices and apartments are for princes and 
kingdoms. Those who live in them feel at ease and con- 
tented, and desire nothing further. 

" To my own nature this is quite repugnant. In a 
splendid abode, like that which I had at Carlsbad, I am at 
once lazy and inactive. On the contrary, a small resi- 
dence, like this poor apartment in which we now are, and 
where a sort of disorderly order — a sort of gipsy-fashion — 
prevails, suits me exactly. It allows my inner nature 
full liberty to act, and to create from itself alone." 

W§ talked of Schiller's letters, the life which he and 
Goethe had led together, and how the two had daily incited 
each other to activity. 

" Even in ' Faust,' " said I, " Schiller seems to have taken 
great interest ; it is pleasant to see how he urges you, or 
allows himself to be misled by his idea of continuing 
' Faust ' himself. I perceive by this that there was some- 
thing precipitate in his nature." 

"You are right," said Goethe, "he was like all men who 
proceed too much from the idea. Then he was never in 
repose, and could never have done ; as you may see by his 
letters on 'Wilhelm Meister,' which he would have now 
this way, and now that way. I had enough to do to stand 
my ground, and keep his works and mine free from such 
influences." 

"1 have," said I, "been reading this morning his 
' Indian Death Dirge,' and have been delighted with its 
excellence." , 

" You see," said Goethe, " what a great artist Schiller 



1829.] CONVEKSATIONS OF GOETHE. 379 

was, and how he could manage even the objective, when 
brought traditionally before his eyes. That ' Indian Death 
Song ' is certainly one of his very best poems, and I only 
wish he had made a dozen like it. And yet — can you be- 
lieve it ? — his nearest friends found fault with this poem, 
thinking it was not sufficiently tinctured with his ideality. 
Yes, my good fellow, such things one has to suffer from 
one's friends. Humboldt* found fault with my Dorothea, 
because, when assailed by the soldiers, she took up arms and 
fought. And yet, without that trait, the character of the 
extraordinary girl, so adapted to the time and circum- 
stances, is at once destroyed, and she sinks into common- 
place. But the longer you live, the more you will see how 
few men are capable of appreciating what must be, and 
that, on the contrary, they only praise, and would only 
have that which is suitable to themselves. These of whom 
I spoke were the first and best ; so you may judge what 
was the opinion of the multitude, and how, in fact, I always 
stood alone. 

" Had I not had some solid foundation in the plastic arts 
and natural science, I should scarce have kept myself up in 
that evil time, and its daily influences ; but this was my 
protection, and enabled me to aid Schiller also. 

Tues., Mar. 24. — " The higher a man is," said Goethe, 
" the more he is under the influence of demons, and he 
must take heed lest his guiding will counsel him to a wrong 
path. 

" There was altogether something demoniac in my ac- 
quaintance with Schiller; we might have been brought 
together earlier or later ; but that we met just at the time 
when I had finished my Italian journey, and Schiller began 
to be weary of philosophical speculation, — this, I say, led 
to very important consequences for us both." 

Thurs., April 2. — " I will discover to you," said Goethe, 
to-day at dinner, " a political secret, which will sooner or 
later be made public. Capo d'Istria cannot long continue 
to be at the head of Grecian affairs, for he wants one 
quality indispensable for such a position ; he is no soldier. 
There is no instance of a mere cabinet statesman being able 



* Wilhelm von Humboldt. — Trans. 



380 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



[1829. 



to organize a revolutionary state, and bring the military and 
their leaders under his control. With the sabre in his 
hand, at the head of an army, a man may command and 
give laws, secnre of being obeyed; but without this the 
attempt is hazardous. Napoleon, if he had not been a 
soldier, could never have attained the highest power ; and 
Capo d'Istria will not long keep the first place, but will 
very soon play a secondary part. I tell you this beforehand, 
and you will see it come. It lies in the nature of things, 
and must happen," 

Goethe then talked much about the French, especially 
Cousin, Villemain, and Guizot. 

"These men," said he, "look into, through, and round * 
a subject, with great success. They combine perfect know- 
ledge of the past with the spirit of the nineteenth century ; 
and the result is wonderful." 

We then came to the newest French poets, and the mean- 
ing of the terms "classic " and "romantic." 

u A new expression occurs to me," said Goethe, " which 
does not ill define the state of the case. I call the classic 
healthy, the romantic sickly. In this sense, the ' Nibelun- 
genlied ' is as classic as the 'Iliad,' for both are vigorous 
and healfchy. Most modern productions are romantic, not 
because they are new, but because they are weak, morbid, 
and sickly ; and the antique is classic, not because it is old, 
but because it is strong, fresh, joyous, and healthy. If we 
distinguish ' classic ' and ' romantic ' by these qualities, it 
will be easy to see our way clearly." 

The conversation turned upon the imprisonment of 
Ber anger — 

" He is rightly served," said Goethe. " His late poems 
are really contrary to all order ; and he has fully deserved 
punishment by his offences against king, state, and peaceful 
citizenship. His early poems, on the contrary, are cheerful 
and harmless, and are well adapted to make a circle of gay 
and happy people, which, indeed, is the best that can be 
said of songs." 

" I am sure," said I, " that he has been injured by the 
society in which he lives, and that, to please his revolu- 

* This felicitous rendering of " Einsicht, Umsicht, and Durch- 
sicht," is by Mrs. Fuller.— Trans. 



1829.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 381 

tionary friends, he has said many things which he other- 
wise would not have said. Your excellency should fulfil 
your intention of writing a chapter on influences ; the sub- 
ject is the richer and more important, the more one thinks 
of it." 

"It is only too rich," said Goethe ; " for in truth all is 
influence except ourselves." 

" We have only to see," said I, " whether an influence is 
injurious or beneficial — whether it is suitable or repugnant 
to our nature." 

" That is indeed the point," said Goethe, " but the diffi- 
culty is for our better nature to maintain itself vigorously, 
and not to allow the demons more power than is due." 

At dessert, Goethe had a laurel, in full flower, and a 
Japanese plant, placed before us on the table. I remarked 
what different feelings were excited by the two plants ; 
that the sight of the laurel produced a cheerful, light, mild, 
and tranquil mood, but that of the Japanese plant, one of 
barbaric melancholy. 

" You are not wrong," said Goethe ; " and hence great 
influence over the inhabitants of a country has been con- 
ceded to its vegetation. And, surely, he who passes his life 
surrounded by solemn, lofty oaks, must be a different man 
from him who lives among airy birches. Still we must 
remember that men, in general, have not such sensitive 
natures as we, but vigorously pursue their own course of 
life without allowing so much power to external impres- 
sions. Nevertheless, this much is certain, — that not only 
the inborn peculiarities of race, but soil and climate, aliment 
and occupation, combine to form the character of a people. 
It is also to be borne in mind, that the primitive races 
mostly took possession of a soil that pleased them ; and* 
consequently, where the country was already in harmony 
with their own inborn character." 

"Just look round," continued Goethe; "behind you, 
on the desk, there is a paper which I wish you to look at." 

" This blue envelope ? " said I. 

"Yes," said he. "Now, what do you say to the hand- 
writing ? Is it not that of a man who felt himself noble 
and free, as he wrote the address ? Whose do you think 
it is ? " 



382 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



I looked at the paper with partiality. The hand was 
indeed free and imposing. "Merck might have written 
so," said I. 

"No," said Goethe; " he was not sufficiently noble and 
positive. It is from Zelter. Pen and paper were favour- 
able to him in the case of this envelope; so that the 
writing perfectly expresses his great character. I shall pur 
the paper into my collection of autographs." 

Fri., April 3. — Dined with Coudray at Goethe's. Coudra y 
gave an account of a staircase in the grand-ducal palace 
at Belvidere, which had been found inconvenient for many 
years, — which the old master had always despaired of im- 
proving, — and which had now been completely rectified 
under the reign of the young prince. 

Coudray also gave an account of the progress of several 
highways, saying that the road over the mountains had to 
be taken round a little, on account of a rise of two feet to 
the rood (Ruthe), while in some places there were eighteen 
inches to the rood. 

I asked Coudray how many inches constituted the proper 
standard for road-making in hilly districts. " Ten inches 
to the rood," said he, "is a convenient measure." " But," 
said I, "when we go from Weimar along anyroad — east, 
south, west, or north — we find some places where the high- 
way has a rise of far more than ten inches to the rood." 
" Those are short, unimportant distances," replied Coudray ; 
" and in road-making we often pass over such spots in the 
vicinity of a place, that we may not deprive it of its little 
income from relays." We laughed at this honest fraud. 
" And in fact," continued Coudray, "it is a mere trifle ; 
the carriages get easily over the ground, and the passengers 
are for once and a way inured to a little hardship. Besides, 
as the relays are usually put on at inns, the drivers have an 
opportunity of taking something to drink, and they would 
not thank any one for spoiling their sport." 

" I should like to know," said Goethe, " whether in per- 
fectly flat countries it would not be better to interrupt the 
straight line of road, so as to allow it to rise and fall a 
little. This would not prevent comfortable travelling; 
and there would be this advantage, that the road would be 
always kept dry by the draining." 



I82 9 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



383 



" That might be done," replied Coudray, " and would 
probably be very useful." 

Coudray then produced a paper, — the scheme of instruc- 
tions for a young architect whom the Upper-Building Board 
(Oberbaubehorde) was about to send to Paris to complete 
his education. He read the instructions, of which Goethe 
approved. Goethe had obtained the necessary assistance 
from the minister ; we were pleased at the success of the 
affair, and talked of the precautionary measures to be 
adopted in order that the money might be really of use to 
the young man, and last him for a year. The intention 
was, on his return, to place him as a teacher at the indus- 
trial school which was to be established, by which means 
the clever young man would at once have a suitable sphere 
of action. All was well devised, and I gave my silent good 
wishes. 

Plans and studies for carpenters, drawn by Schindel, 
were then produced and looked over. Coudray considered 
them of importance, and perfectly fitted for the use of the 
industrial school. 

There was then some talk about buildings, the means of 
avoiding echo, and the great firmness of the edifices 
belonging to the Jesuits. " At Messina," said Goethe, " all 
the buildings were thrown down by an earthquake except 
the church and convent of the Jesuits, which stood unharmed, 
as if they had been built the day before. There was not 
a trace that the earthquake had had the slightest effect 
upon them." 

From the Jesuits and their wealth, conversation turned 
upon the Catholics and Irish emancipation. " Emancipa- 
tion will, we see, be granted," said Coudray, " but with so 
many clauses on the part of Parliament, that it cannot in 
any way be dangerous to England." 

" All preventive measures," said Goethe, " are ineffectual 
with Catholics. The Papal see has interests and means to 
carry them out quietly, of which we never dream. If I 
were a member of Parliament, I would not hinder emanci- 
pation ; but I would have it recorded, that when the first 
distinguished Protestant head fell by a Catholic vote, peoplo 
might think of me." 

Conversation then turned on the newest French literature, 



384 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



and Goethe spoke again with admiration of the lectures of 
MM. Cousin, Villemain, and Guizot. 

" Instead of the superficial lightness of Voltaire," said he, 
"they have an erudition, such as, in earlier days, was 
unknown out of Germany. And such intellect ! such 
searching and pressing out of the subject ! superb ! It is 
as if they trod the wine-press. All three are excellent, 
but I would give the preference to Guizot ; he is my 
favourite." 

Speaking on topics of universal history, Goethe spoke 
thus on the subject of rulers : — 

" To be popular, a great ruler needs no other means than 
his greatness. If he has striven and succeeded in making 
his realm happy at home and honoured abroad, it matters 
not whether he ride about in a state coach, dressed in all his 
orders, or in a bear-skin, with his cigar in his mouth, in a 
miserable droshy, he is sure of love and esteem from his 
people. 

" But if a prince lacks personal greatness, and does not 
know how to conciliate his subjects by good deeds, he must 
think of other means, and there is none better and more 
effective than religion and a sympathy with the customs of 
his people. To appear at church every Sunday ; to look 
down upon, and let himself be looked at for an hour by the 
congregation, is the best means of becoming popular which 
can be recommended to a young sovereign, and one which, 
with all his greatness, Napoleon himself did not disdain." 

Conversation again turned upon the Catholics, and it was 
remarked how great were the silent operation and influence 
of the ecclesiastics. An anecdote was related of a young 
writer of Henault, who had made somewhat merry with 
the rosary in a periodical which he edited. The paper was 
immediately bought up through the influence of the 
priests over their several congregations. 

" An Italian translation of my ' Werther/ " said Goethe, 
" very soon appeared at Milan. Not a single copy of it 
was to be seen a short time afterwards. The bishop had 
caused the whole edition to be bought up by the clergy in 
the various districts. I was not vexed, but pleased with 
the shrewd gentlemen, who saw, at once, that ' Werther ' 
was a bad book for the Catholics, and I could not do other- 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



385 



wise than commend liini for taking immediately the most 
effective measures quietly to suppress it." 

Sun., April 5th. — Groethe said he had driven out to 
Belvidere this morning, to look at Coudray's new staircase 
in the castle, which he found excellent. He also told me 
that a great petrified log had been sent him, which he 
would show me. 

" Such petrified trunks," said he, "are found about the 
fifty-first degree round about the earth, as far as America, 
like a girdle. We must always go on wondering. We 
have no idea whatever of the early organization of the 
earth, and I cannot blame Herr von Buch for trying to 
indoctrinate mankind for the sake of spreading his 
hypothesis. He knows nothing, but nobody knows more ; 
and, after all, it does not matter what is taught, if it has 
only some show of reason." 

Groethe told me that Zelter desired to be remembered to 
me, at which I was greatly pleased. We then talked of his 
" Travels in Italy ; " and he told me that in one of his 
letters from that country he had found a song, which he 
would show me. He asked me to hand him a packet of 
papers which lay before me on the desk. I gave it him : 
it contained his letters from Italy ; he looked out the poem, 
and read : — 

" Cupido, loser, eigensinniger Knabe." 

" Cupid, thou wanton, thou self-will'd boy," &c* 

I was highly pleased with this poem, which seemed 
to me perfectly new. 

" It cannot be strange to you," said Groethe, " for it is in 
' Claudine von Villa Bella,' where it is sung by Rugantino. 
I have, however, given it there in such a fragmentary state, 
that one passes it over without observing what it means. 
I think, however, it stands well. It prettily expresses the 
situation, and is in the anacreontic vein. This song, and 
others of the kind from my operas, should properly be 
reprinted among my ' Poems,' that the composer may have 

* The poem in its complete form will be found in the letters 
relating to the " Second Stay at Rome " (Zweiter rdmischer 
Aufenthalt), under the head of " January, 1788." — Trans. 

2o 



386 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



tliem all together." I thought this a good notion, and took 
it as a hint for the future. 

Goethe had read the poem very beautifully. I could not 
get it out of my head, and it seemed to have made a lasting 
impression upon him also. The last lines — 

" So rude thy sport, I fear my poor little soul -will 
Haste away to escape thee, and flee her dwelling," 

he uttered from time to time, as if in a dream. 

He then told me of a book about Napoleon, lately pub- 
lished, which was written by one who had known the hero 
in his youth, and contained the most remarkable disclosures. 
" The book is very tame," said he, " written without any 
enthusiasm ; but one sees what a grand character there is 
in the truth when one ventures to speak it." 

Goethe also told me about a tragedy by a young poet. 
" It is a pathological work," said he ; "a superfluity of saj) 
is bestowed on some parts which do not require it, and 
drawn out of those which stand in need of it. The subject 
was good, but the scenes which I expected were not there ; 
while others, which I did not expect, were elaborated with 
assiduity and love. This is what I call pathological, or 
even 'romantic,' if you would rather speak after our new 
theory." 

We remained together a little longer very cheerfully, and 
at last Goethe gave me some honey and also some dates, 
which I took with me. 

Mon., April 6. — Goethe gave me a letter from Egon 
Ebert, which I read at dinner, and which highly pleased 
me. We said a great deal in praise of Egon Ebert and 
Bohemia, and also mentioned Professor Zauper with 
affection. 

" Bohemia is a peculiar country," said Goethe. " I have 
always liked to be there. In the culture of the literati 
there is still somethiog pure, which begins to be rare in the 
north of Germany ; since here every vagabond writes, with 
whom moral basis or higher views are not to be thought 
of." 

Goethe then spoke of Ebert's newest epic poem, of the 
early female government in Bohemia, and of the origin of 
the tradition of the Amazons. This brought conversation 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



387 



to the epic of another poet, who had taken great pains to 
get favourable notices of his work in the public prints. 

" Such notices," said Goethe, "have appeared in various 
papers. But at last comes the ' Halle Literary Gazette,' 
telling plainly what the poem is really worth, and thus all 
the compliments of the other papers are nullified. He who 
nowadays will not have the truth, is discovered ; the time 
is past for deluding and misleading the public." 

"I wonder," said I, "that man can toil so for a little 
fame, and even stoop to falsities." 

"My good fellow," said Goethe, "a name is no despicable 
matter. Napoleon, for the sake of a great name, broke in 
pieces almost half a world." 

A short pause arose, after which Goethe told me more of 
the new book about Napoleon, adding — 

" The power of truth is great. Every halo, every 
illusion which journalists, historians, and poets have con- 
jured up about Napoleon, vanishes before the terrible 
reality of this book ; but the hero becomes no less than 
before ; on the contrary, he grows in stature as he in- 
creases in truth." 

"His personal influence," said I, "must have had a 
peculiar magic, that men should so attach themselves to 
him at once, adhere to him, and suffer themselves to be 
wholly governed by him." 

"Certainly," said Goethe, "his personal influence was 
immense. Yet the chief reason was, that men under him 
were sure of attaining their object. On this account they 
were drawn towards him, as they are to every one who 
gives them a like certainty. Thus actors attach themselves 
to a new manager, of whom they think that he will assign 
them good parts. This is an old story constantly repeated ; 
so is human nature constituted. No man serves another 
disinterestedly, but he does it willingly if he knows he can 
thus serve himself. Napoleon knew men well; he knew 
how to make proper use of their weaknesses." 

The conversation turned upon Zelter. 

"You know," said Goethe, "that Zelter received the 
Prussian Order. But he had no coat of arms, while, from 
his large family, he might hope for a long continuance of 
his name. A coat of arms was therefore necessary as an 



388 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



honourable basis, and I have taken the fancy to make him 
one. I wrote to him, and he was pleased, but insisted on 
having a horse. * Good,' said I, ' a horse you shall have, 
but it shall be one with wings.' But turn your head ; a 
paper lies behind you, upon which I have made the sketch 
with pencil." 

I took up the paper, and examined the drawing. The 
arms looked very stately, and I could not but praise the 
invention. In the lower field were the battlements of a 
city wall, intimating that Zelter had been, in early days, a 
skilful mason. A winged horse rose from behind, in- 
dicating his genius and high aspirations. Above the 
escutcheon was a lyre, over which shone a star, as a symbol 
of the art by which our excellent friend, under the influence 
and protection of favouring stars, had won his fame. 
Beneath was annexed the Order which his [king, in recog- 
nition of his great merits, had bestowed upon him. 

" I have had it engraved by Facius," said Goethe, " and 
you shall see an impression. Is it not pleasant for one 
friend to make a coat of arms for another, and thus, as it 
were, bestow nobility upon him ? " 

We sat a while longer at table, taking some glasses of 
old Rhenish wine, with some good biscuits. Goethe 
hummed to himself unintelligibly. The poem of yesterday 
came into my head again. I recited the lines — 

" My goods and chattels hast thou knock'd about sadly j 
I seek, and only seem to wander in blindness." 

" I cannot get that poem out of my head," said I. " It 
is quite unique, and most admirably expresses the disorder 
which love occasions in our life." 

"It brings a gloomy condition before our eyes," said 
Goethe. 

" On me," said I, "it makes the impression of a Dutch 
picture." 

" There is something in it of the ' Good man and good 
wife,' " said Goethe. 

"You have just anticipated me," said I; "for I have 
been forced to keep on thinking of that Scottish subject, 
and Ostade's picture was before my eyes." 

"Yet, strange to say," observed Goethe, "neither of these 



I82 9 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



389 



two poems could be painted ; they convey the impression of 
a picture — they produce a similar mood ; but, once painted, 
they would be nothing." 

" It is," said I, " a fine instance of poetry verging as 
nearly on painting as possible, without going out of its own 
sphere. Such poems are my favourites, as they inspire 
both contemplation and feeling. But I hardly understand 
how you could obtain the feeling of such a situation ; the 
poem is as if from another time and another world." 

"I shall not write such another," said Goethe; "and 
know not how it came to me, as is often the case." 

"One peculiarity of this poem," said I, "is, that it 
has upon me the effect of rhyme, and yet it is not in 
rhyme. How is this ? " 

" That is the result of the rhythm," he replied. " The 
lines begin with a short syllable, and then proceed in 
trochees till the dactyle near the close, which has a pecu- 
liar effect, and gives a sad, bewailing character to the poem." 

He took a pencil, and divided the line, — 

"Yon | meinem | breiten | Lager | bin ich ver | trieben." 

We then talked of rhythm in general, and came to the 
conclusion that no certain rules can be laid down for 
such matters. 

" The measure," said Goethe, "flows, as it were, uncon- 
sciously from the mood of the poet. If he thought about 
it while writing the poem he would go mad, and produce 
nothing of value." 

I was waiting for the impression of the seal. Goethe 
began to speak of Guizot. 

"I am going on with his lectures, which continue to be 
excellent. Those of the present year go about as far as the 
eighth century. I know no historian more profound or 
more penetrating. Things of which no one thinks have 
the greatest significance in his eyes, as sources of important 
events. For instance, what influence certain religious 
opinions have had upon history ; how the doctrine of 
original sin, grace, and good works has given this or that 
form to certain epochs, is shown and deduced with the 
utmost clearness. Then the enduring life of Roman law, 
which, like a diving duck, hides itself from time to time, 



390 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



but is never quite lost, always coming up again alive, is 
well set forth ; on which occasion fall acknowledgment is 
given to our excellent Savigny. 

" When Guizot speaks of the influence which other 
nations exercised on the Gauls in former times, I was par- 
ticularly struck with what he says of the Germans. 

" ' The Germans, ' says he, ' brought us the idea of per- 
sonal freedom, which was possessed by that nation more 
than any other.' 

" Is not that good ? Is he not perfectly right ? and 
does not this idea work upon us even to the present day ? 
The Reformation is as much attributable to this source, as 
the Bursclien conspiracy on the Wartburg — wise as well as 
foolish enterprises. Even the motley character of our 
literature; the thirst of our poets for originality — the 
belief of each one that he must strike out a new path ; the 
separation and isolation amoug our learned men, each one 
standing by himself, and working from a point of his own 
— all comes from this source. 

" The French and English, on the other hand, keep far 
more together, and guide themselves one by another. They 
harmonize in dress and manners. They fear to differ from 
.one another, lest they should be remarkable, or even ridicu- 
lous. But with the Germans each one goes his own way, 
and strives to satisfy himself ; he does not ask about others, 
for, as Guizot rightly observes, he has within him the idea 
of personal freedom, from which, as I have said, comes much 
that is excellent, but also much absurdity." 

Tues., April 7. — As I entered, I found Hofrath Meyer, 
who had been ill of late, sitting with Goethe at table, and 
was rejoiced to see him so much better. They spoke of 
things relating to art, — of Peel, who has given four thou- 
sand pounds for a Claude Lorraine, and has thus found 
especial favour in the eyes of Meyer. 

The newspapers were brought in, and we looked over 
them while waiting for the soup. The emancipation of the 
Irish was now discussed as the order of the day. 

"It is instructive," said Goethe, "to see how things come 
to light on this occasion, of which no one ever thought, and 
which would never have been spoken of but for the present 
crisis. We cannot, however, get a clear notion of the state 



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391 



of Ireland ; the subject is too intricate. But this we can 
see, that she suffers from evils which will not be removed 
by any means, and therefore, of course, not by emancipation. 
If it has hitherto been unfortunate for Ireland to endure 
her evils alone, it is now unfortunate that England is also 
drawn into them. Then, no confidence can be put in the 
Catholics. We see with what difficulty the two million of 
Protestants in Ireland have kept their ground hitherto 
against the preponderating five milhon of Catholics ; and 
how, for instance, the poor Protestant farmers have been 
oppressed, tricked, and tormented, when among Catholic 
neighbours. The Catholics do not agree among themselves, 
but they always unite against a Protestant. They are like 
a pack of hounds, who bite one another, but, when a stag 
comes in view, they all unite immediately to run it down." 

Prom Ireland conversation turned to the affairs of 
Turkey. Surprise was expressed that the Russians, with 
their preponderating power, did not effect more in the late 
campaign. 

"The fact of the matter is this," said Goethe, "the 
means were inadequate, and therefore overgreat requisitions 
were made upon individuals ; this produced great personal 
deeds and sacrifices, without advancing the cause on the 
whole." 

"It may be," said Meyer, "a bad locality. We see, in 
the earliest times, that, at this very spot, if an enemy at- 
tempted to penetrate anywhere from the Danube to the 
northern mountains, he always encountered the most obsti- 
nate resistance, and almost invariably failed. If the Russians 
could only keep the seaside open, to furnish themselves 
with stores in that way ! " 

"That is yet to be hoped," said Goethe; "I am now 
reading Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, — namely, what is 
related by the hero's everyday companion, Bourrienne, 
which destroys the romantic cast otf many scenes, and dis- 
plays facts in their naked sublime truth. It is evident that 
lie undertook this expedition merely to fill up an epoch 
when he could do nothing in France' to make himself ruler. 
He was at first undecided what to do ; he visited all the 
French 'harbours on the Atlantic coast, to inspect the fleets, 
and see whether an expedition against England were prac- 



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CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



ticable or not. He found it was not, and then decided on 
going to Egypt." 

"It raises my admiration," said I, "that Napoleon, at 
that early age, could play with the great affairs of the 
world as easily and securely as if many years' practice and 
experience had gone before." 

"That, my dear friend," said Goethe, "is an inborn 
quality with great talents. Napoleon managed the world 
as Hummel his piano ; both achievements appear wonderful, 
we do not understand one more than the other, yet so it is, 
and the whole is done before our eyes. Napoleon was in 
this especially great — that he was at all hours the same. 
Before a battle, during a battle, after a victory, after a 
defeat, he stood always firm, was always clear and decided 
as to what he should do. He was always in his element, 
and equal to each situation and each moment, just as it is 
all alike to Hummel whether he plays an adagio or an 
allegro, bass or treble. This facility we find everywhere 
where there is real talent, in the arts of peace as well as in 
war ; at the harpsichord as behind the cannon. 

"We see, by this book," continued Goethe, "how many 
fables have been invented about the Egyptian campaign. 
Much, indeed, is corroborated, but much is not, and most 
that has been said is contradicted. That he had eight 
hundred Turkish prisoners shot is true ; but the act appears 
as the mature determination of a long council of war, on 
the conviction, after a consideration of all the circumstances, 
that there were no means of saving them. That he descended 
into the Pyramids is a fable. He stood at his ease on the 
outside, and let others tell him what they had seen below. 
In the same way, the tradition that he wore the Eastern 
dress is inaccurate. He put it on once at home, and ap- 
peared in it among his followers, to see how it became him. 
But the turban does not suit such long heads, and he never 
put on the dress again. 

" He really visited those sick of the plague, and, indeed, 
in order to prove that the man who could vanquish fear 
could vanquish the plague also. And he was right ! I can 
instance a fact from my own life, when I was inevitably 
exposed to infection from a putrid fever, and warded off: 
the disease merely by force of will. It is incredible what 



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power the moral will lias in such cases. It penetrates, as 
it were, the body ; and puts it into a state of activity which 
repels all hurtful influences. Fear, on the other hand, is a 
state of indolent weakness and susceptibility, which makes 
it easy for every foe to take possession of us. This Napoleon 
knew well, and he felt that he risked nothing in giving his 
army an imposing example. 

"But," continued he, gaily, "pay your respects. What 
book do you think Napoleon carried in his field library ? — 
my ' Werther ! ' " 

"We may see by his levee at Erfurt," said I, "that he 
had studied it well." 

"He had studied it as a criminal judge does his docu- 
ments," said Goethe, "and in this spirit talked with me 
about it. In Bourrienne's work there is a list of the books 
which Napoleon took to Egypt, among which is 'Werther.' 
But what is worth noticing in this list, is the manner in 
which the books are classed under different rubrics. Under 
the head Politique, for instance, we find the Old Testament, 
the New Testament, the Koran; by which we see from 
what point of view Napoleon regarded religious matters." 

He told us many other interesting matters from the book. 
Among others, the incident was mentioned how Napoleon 
with his army went through part of the dry bed in the 
narrow part of the Red Sea, at the time of ebb ; but was 
overtaken by the flood, and the last men waded up to their 
arms in water, so that the exploit nearly ended in Pharaoh's 
style. This led Goethe to say much that was new on the 
rise of the flood. He compared it with that of the clouds, 
which do not come from a great distance, but arise at 
once in various parts, and pass along symmetrically every- 
where. 

Wed., April 8. — Goethe was already at table when I 
entered ; he received me with a very cheerful air. 

"From whence, think you," said he, "have I received a 
letter ? — From E-ome. But from whom ? — From the King 
of Bavaria." 

"I sympathize in the pleasure you feel," said I. "And 
is it not odd ? Not an hour since, and during my walk, I 
had occupied myself with thinking about the King of 
Bavaria; and now I receive this pleasant intelligence." 



394 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



"Wo have often internal intimations of that sort," said 
Goethe. " There is the letter; take it, sit down by me, and 
read it." 

I took the letter, Goethe took the newspaper, and so I 
read nndisturbed the royal words. The letter was dated 
Rome, 26th March, 1829, and was written in a very legible 
and dignified hand. The King told Goethe that he had 
bought an estate in Rome, the Villa di Malta, with the 
adjacent gardens in the neighbourhood of the Villa Lndovisi, 
at the north-west end of the city. It stands upon a hill, so 
that he can see over all Rome, and has towards the north- 
east a full view of St. Peter's. 

" It is a prospect," he writes, " which one would travel a 
long way to enjoy, and which I have at my command every 
hour, from the windows of my own house." 

He goes on congratulating himself at being so pleasantly 
settled at Rome. " I had not seen Rome for twelve years," 
he writes, " and longed for it as one longs for a mistress ; 
I shall return with my feelings tranquillized, as one comes 
to a beloved female friend." He then speaks of the sublime 
edifices and works of art with the enthusiasm of a con- 
noisseur, whose heart is set on the really beautiful and its 
advancement, and who is keenly sensitive to any departure 
from good taste. The letter altogether was conceived and 
expressed in a beautiful and thoroughly humane feeling, 
such as one does not expect from persons of such high rank. 
I expressed my delight to Goethe. 

u There you see a monarch," said he, "who, while he has 
his royal majesty, preserves the innate beauty of his nature 
as a man. This is a rare phenomenon, and therefore the 
more delightful." 

I looked again at the letter, and found in it some more 
excellent passages. " Here in Rome," writes the King, " I 
refresh myself from the cares of a throne ; Art and Nature 
are my daily enjoyments — artists my table companions." 
He also writes how he passed the house where Goethe 
resided, and how he thought of him at the time. Some 
passages are cited from the "Roman Elegies," * from which 
it may be seen that the King keeps them fresh in his 

* i. e. Goethe's. — Trans. 



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memory, and likes to read them at Rome, from time to 
time, on the veiy spot where they were produced. 

" Yes," said Goethe, " he is particularly fond of those 
elegies. He has teazed me a great deal to tell him how 
far they are matter of fact ; the effect of the poems being 
so pleasant, that it seems as if there must have been some- 
thing in the reality. People seldom reflect that a poet can 
generally make something good out of small occasions. 

"I wish," continued Goethe, "that I had the King's 
poems by me, that I might allude to them in my answer. 
I should think they were good, to judge from the little I have 
read. In form and treatment he has much of Schiller, and, 
if he has put the substance of a lofty soul into so fine a 
vase, we have a right to expect much excellence. I am 
glad that the King is so pleasantly settled at Rome. I 
know the villa — the situation is beautiful, and all the 
German artists reside in the vicinity." 

The servant changed the plates, and Goethe bade him 
spread out the large engraving of Rome on the floor of the 
" covered chamber." " I will show you on what a beautiful 
spot the King has settled, that you may have a right notion 
of the locality." I felt much obliged to Goethe. 

" Yesterday evening," said I, " I read ' Claudine von 
Villa Bella,' and was much delighted with it. The foun- 
dation is so well laid, and it is carried out with so much 
joyous audacity, that I feel the strongest desire to see it on 
the stage." 

"If it is well played," said Goethe, "the effect is not 
bad." 

" I have already cast the piece in my mind," said I, " and 
distributed the parts. Herr Genast must be Rugantino ; 
he seems actually made for the part. Herr Franke must 
be Don Pedro, for he is similarly shaped, and it is good for 
two brothers to be somewhat alike. Herr La Roche should 
be Basco, who, with his excellent art and making-up, would 
give the part the wild aspect it requires." 

"Madame Eberwein," continued Goethe, "would make 
a very good Lucinde, and Mademoiselle Schmidt would 
be Claudine." 

" For Alonzo," said I, " we ought to have a stately 
figure — rather a good actor than a singer, and I think 



396 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



Herr Oels or Hcrr Graff would be well placed. But 
by whom is the opera composed, and what is the music 
like ? " 

"By Reichardt, and it is excellent," answered Goethe; 
" only, the instrumentation is a little too weak, owing to 
the taste of the time. Something should now be done in 
this respect, so as to make the instrumentation a little 
stronger and fuller. With our song, ' Cupido, loser, 
eigensinniger Knabe,' the composer has been particularly 
happy." 

" It is a peculiarity of this song," said I, " that it puts 
me in a pleasant dreamy mood whenever it is recited." 

"From such a mood it proceeded," said Goethe, "and 
therefore this effect is the right one." 

We had finished eating. Frederick came in and told us 
that he had laid out the engraving of Rome in the 
"covered chamber." We went in to look at it. The 
picture of the great metropolis of the world lay before us. 
Goethe soon found the Villa Ludovisi, and near it the 
King's new purchase — the Villa di Malta. 

"See," said he, "what a superb situation! The whole 
city is spread out before you, and the hill is so high, that 
you can see quite over the buildings towards south and 
east. I have been in this villa, and have often enjoyed the 
view from the windows. Here, where the city extends 
out in a point towards the north-east beyond the Tiber, 
lies St. Peter's ; and here, hard by, is the Vatican. The 
King, you see, has from the windows of his villa a full 
view of these buildings across the river. The long road 
here, from the north into the city, comes from Germany ; 
that is the Porta del Popolo. I lived in one of these first 
streets near the gate, in a corner house. They show 
another in Rome as the place where I lived ; but it is not 
the right one. No matter ; such things are, at bottom, 
quite indifferent, and we must let tradition take its 
course." 

We returned into the dining-room. 

"The Chancellor," said I, " would be pleased with that 
letter from the King." 

"He shall see it," said Goethe. 

"When I read in the Paris newspaper," continued 



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Goethe, "the speeches and debates of the Chambers, 1 
cannot help thinking of the Chancellor, and how truly he 
would be in his element there. For such a place it is not 
enough to have talent, but an impulse to speak, and a 
delight in it ; both of which are united in our Chancellor. 
Napoleon, too, had this impulse to speak ; and when he 
could not he was forced to write or dictate. We find with 
Blucher, too, that he liked to speak, and spoke well and with 
emphasis ; he had cultivated this talent at the lodge. Our 
Grand Duke, too, liked to speak, though he was by nature 
laconic ; and when he could not speak, he wrote. He has 
prepared many laws, many treaties, for the most part well ; 
only princes have not time or quiet to obtain the necessary 
knowledge of details. Even in his last days he made an 
order about paying for the restoration of pictures. This 
was a happy instance, for, quite like a prince, he had made 
a mathematical calculation for paying the expenses of 
restoration by measure; if the restored picture holds 
twelve square feet, pay twelve dollars ; if four feet, four 
dollars. This was like a prince, but not like an artist ; 
for a twelve-foot picture may be in such a state that it can 
be cleaned without much trouble in a day, while a four- 
foot picture may be in such a condition that the industry 
and toil of a whole week will scarcely suffice to restore it. 
But princes, like good military men, are fond of mathe- 
matical arrangements, and go to work on the grand scale, 
according to measure." 

I was pleased with this anecdote. We then said a great 
deal about Art, and kindred subjects. 

" I possess drawings," said Goethe, " after pictures by 
Raffaelle and Domenichino, upon which Meyer made a 
remarkable observation, which I will communicate : — 

" ' The drawings,' said Meyer, ' somewhat evince a want 
of practice ; but it is evident that whoever made them had 
a delicate and just feeling for the pictures which were 
before him, and this has passed into the drawing, so as to 
bring the originals faithfully before the mind. If an 
artist of our day copied those pictures, he would draw 
everything far better, and perhaps more correctly ; but I 
can venture to say, that he would want this true feeling 
for the original, and that, therefore, his superior drawing 



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[1829. 



would be far from giving us so pure and perfect a notion 
of Raffaelle or Domenichino.' 

" Is not that good ?" said Goethe. " And the same may 
be said of translations. Yoss, for instance, has certainly 
made an excellent translation from Homer ; yet, I am in- 
clined to think, a person might have had and conveyed a 
more naive and faithful representation of the original, 
without being, on the whole, so masterly a translator as 
Voss." 

I found this all very just, and perfectly agreed with it. 
As the weather was fine, and the sun was already high, we 
went a little way down the garden, where Goethe had some 
trees tied up, which hung too low upon the path. 

The yellow crocuses were in full vigour. We looked 
upon the flowers and then upon the path, where we had 
perfectly violet images. " You were lately of opinion," said 
Goethe, "that green and red mutually called forth each 
other better than yellow and blue, inasmuch as the former 
colours stood at a higher degree, and were therefore more 
perfect, fuller,* and more effective than the latter. I 
cannot admit this. Every colour, as soon as it is decidedly 
exhibited to the eye, acts with equal force for the produc- 
tion of the ' demanded colour.' The only point is, that our 
eye should be in the right mood, that the sunlight should 
off er no impediment by overbrightness, and that the ground 
should not be unfavourable to the reception of the 'de- 
manded ' image. Generally, we must take care not to make 
too subtle distinctions and definitions with respect to colours, 
as we are too easily exposed to the danger of being led 
from the essential into the non-essential, from the true into 
the false, and from the simple into the intricate." 

I noted down this as a good doctrine for my studies. In 
the mean while, the time for the theatre had arrived, and I 
prepared to set out. "Mind," said Goethe, laughing, as he 
took leave of me, " that you are able to get over the 
horrors of ' Thirty Years of a Gamester's Life ' this 
evening." 

Fri., April 10. — "While we are waiting for our soup, I 
will provide you with refreshment for your eyes." 

* Literally "satiated" (gesattigt) .— Trans. 



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With these friendly words, Goethe placed before me a 
volume, containing landscapes of Claude Lorraine. 

These were the first productions of this great master 
which I had seen. The impression they made upon me was 
extraordinary; and my surprise and rapture rose with 
every leaf I turned over. 

The power of the shadowy masses on either side, the 
splendid sunlight from the background, and its reflection in 
the water, producing a clear and decisive impression, struck 
me as the always-recurring maxim upon art of the great 
master. I was also delighted to find each picture quite a 
little world by itself, in which there was nothing that was 
not in conformity with, and did not advance, the ruling 
thought. Whether it was a seaport with vessels at anchor, 
active fishermen and magnificent buildings on the water's 
edge, or a lonely barren hill-country, with its grazing goats, 
little brook and bridge, a few low bushes, and a shady tree, 
under which a reposing shepherd was piping, or a marshy 
spot, with standing pools, which in the powerful summer- 
heat gives a pleasant impression of coolness, there was 
always complete unity in the picture ; nowhere a trace of 
anything foreign that did not belong to its element. 

" Here you see, for once, a complete man," said Goethe, 
" who thought and felt beautifully, and in whose mind lay 
a world, such as you will not easily find out of doors. The 
pictures have the highest truth, but no trace of actuality. 
Claude Lorraine knew the real world by heart, down to the 
minutest details, and used it only as a means to express the 
world of his beautiful soul. That is the true ideality which 
can so use real means that the truth evolved produces an 
illusion as if it were an actuality." 

"This, I think, is good doctrine," said I, "and would 
apply as well to poetry as to the plastic arts." 

" Even so," replied Goethe. " Meanwhile, you had better 
defer the further enjoyment of the admirable Claude till 
after dinner ; for the pictures are too good to look at many 
of them at once." 

" That is my feeling," said I, "for a certain fear comes 
over me when I am about to turn to the following leaf. It 
is a fear of a peculiar kind which is inspired by these 
beauties, and we have a similar feeling with an excellent 



400 



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[1829. 



book, when a crowd of excellent passages compel us to stop, 
and we loiter a little as we proceed." 

" I have answered the King of Bavaria," said Goethe, 
after a pause, " and you shall read my letter." 

" That will be very instructive for me," said I, " and 
will afford me much pleasure." 

"In the mean while," said Goethe, "there is in the 
' Allgemeine Zeitung ' a poem to the King, which the 
Chancellor read to me yesterday, and which you must see 
likewise." 

Goethe gave me the paper, and I read the poem to 
myself. 

" Now, what do you say to it ? " said Goethe. 

" They are," I replied, " the feelings of a dilettante who 
has more good-will than talent, and to whom the high 
state of literature presents language ready made, which 
sings and rhymes for him, while he imagines that he 
himself is speaking." 

"You are perfectly right," said he ; "I also think the 
poem a very weak production. It bears no trace of 
external observation ; it is wholly mental, and that not in 
the right way." 

" To write a poem well," said I, " requires great know- 
ledge of the subject; and he who has not, like Claude 
Lorraine, a whole world at command, will seldom produce 
anything good, with the best ideal tendencies." 

"And then," said Goethe, " only an innate talent knows 
what is really to be done, while others, more or less, go 
on blundering." 

" The aesthetic teachers," said I, " are a proof of this ; for 
scarcely one of them knows what properly should be 
taught, and hence they complete the perplexity of young 
poets. Instead of treating of the Real, they treat of the 
Ideal ; and instead of helping the young poet to what he 
has not, they confuse him about what he has. He who, 
for instance, has by nature wit and humour, will use these 
powers to the best advantage, if scarcely conscious that 
he is endowed with them ; but he who allows himself to 
be influenced by the much-lauded treatises upon these 
high qualities, will be disturbed in the innocent use of 
his powers, consciousness will paralyze these powers, and 



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instead of the aid he desires, he will find himself in- 
calculably impeded." 

" Yon are quite right," he replied, " and a great deal 
might be said on that chapter." 

" I have," he continued, " been reading the new epic by 
Egon Ebert ; and you must read it too, that we may help 
him out a little. He is really a superior talent, but this 
new poem lacks the proper poetical foundation — the 
foundation of reality. The external landscapes, sunset and 
sunrise — passages where the external world was his own 
— could not be better done. But the rest, which lies in 
ages gone by, and belongs to tradition, is not painted with 
its proper truth, and lacks the right kernel. The Amazons, 
with their life and actions, are described in that general 
way which young people esteem poetic and romantic, and 
which usually passes for such in the aesthetic world." 

" This is a fault," said I, " which pervades the whole of 
our present literature. Special truth is avoided, for fear it 
should not be poetical, and thus we fall into common- 
places." 

"Egon Ebert," said Goethe, "should have adhered to 
the chronicles ; he would then have made something of 
his poem. When I remember how Schiller studied tra- 
dition, what trouble he gave himself about Switzerland 
when he wrote his ' Tell,' and how Shakespeare used the 
chronicles, and took into his plays whole passages word for 
word, I am inclined to prescribe the same course to a 
young poet of the present day. I have, in my ' Clavigo,' 
made use of whole passages from the ' Memoirs ' of Beau- 
marchais." 

" But they are so worked up," said I, " that the fact is 
not observed, and the passages do not stand out like an 
indigested mass." 

"If it is so," said Goethe, "that is as it should be. 
Beaumarchais was a mad fellow, and you must read his 
'Memoirs.' Lawsuits were his element, in which alone he 
felt truly at home. There are still in existence speeches 
from one of his lawsuits, which may be ranked among the 
most remarkable, the most full of talent, and the boldest 
which have ever been known of their kind. However, 
Beaumarchais lost this same famous lawsuit. As he was 

2d 



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[1829. 



going down the stairs from the court, he met the Chancellor 
coming up. Beaumarchais ought to have given place, but 
he would not, and insisted that each should take half the 
stair. The Chancellor, insulted in his dignity, commanded 
his people to push Beaumarchais aside, which they did. 
Beaumarchais immediately returned into court, and began 
an action against the Chancellor, which he gained." 

I was pleased with this anecdote, and we continued 
talking over various things. 

" I have now taken up ' My Second Residence in Rome ' 
once more," said Goethe, " that I may finally get rid of 
it, and turn my attention to something else. You know 
that my published Italian journey was entirely compiled 
from letters. But the letters which I wrote during my 
second visit to Rome are not of such a kind that 1 can 
make an advantageous use of them ; they contain too man) 
references to home and my connections in Weimar, and 
show too little of my Italian life. Yet there are many 
utterances which express my inward life at the same time. 
Now, I think of extracting these passages, and inserting 
them in my narrative, to which they will give tone and 
harmony." 

I found this plan perfectly judicious, and confirmed 
Goethe in his intentions. 

" It has at all times been said and repeated, that man 
should strive to know himself. This is a singular requisi- 
tion, with which no one complies or indeed ever will com- 
ply. Man is by all his senses and efforts directed to 
externals — to the world around him, and he has to know 
this so far, and to make it so far serviceable, as he requires 
for his own ends. It is only when he feels joy or sorrow 
that he knows anything about himself, and only by joy or 
sorrow is he instructed what to seek and what to shun. 
Altogether, man is a darkened being ; he knows not 
whence he comes, nor whither he goes ; he knows little of 
the world, and least of himself. I know not myself, and 
God forbid I should ! But what I wish to say is this, that 
in my fortieth year, while living in Italy, I became wise 
enough to know thus much of myself — that I had no 
talent for plastic art, and that this tendency of mine was a 
false one. If I drew anything, I had not a sufficient 



I82 9 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



403 



inclination for the corporeal. I felt a certain fear lest 
objects should press too much upon me, and the weak and 
moderate was more to my taste. If I drew a landscape, 
and got through the back and middle ground, I never 
dared to give force enough to the foreground, so that my 
pictures never produced the proper effect. Then I made 
no progress except by practice, and was always obliged to 
begin again, if I left off for a while. Yet I was not 
absolutely destitute of talent, especially for landscape, and 
Hackert often said, — ' If you will stay with me eighteen 
months, you will produce something which will give 
pleasure to yourself and others.' " 
I listened with great interest. 

" But how," said I, " can one be sure that one 
possesses a real talent for plastic art ? " 

" Real talent," said Goethe, " has an innate sense for 
form, relations, and colour, so as soon to manage all that 
well with but little guidance. Especially, it has a sense 
for the corporeal, and an inclination to make it palpable 
by judicious distribution of life. Even in the intervals of 
practice, it progresses and grows inwardly. Such a talent 
is not hard to recognize, but is best recognized by a master." 

" I visited the palace this morning," continued he, in a 
lively tone. "The apartments of the Grand Duchess 
show great taste ; and Coudray has, with his Italians, 
given another proof of his talent. The painters were still 
busy with the walls ; they were Milanese. I spoke Italian 
with them, and found that I had not lost the power. The 
language brings back, as it were, the atmosphere of the 
country. They told me that they had last painted the 
chateau of the King of Wiirtemburg, and that they had 
then been summoned to Gotha, where, however, they 
could not come to any agreement. They had been heard 
of in Weimar at the same time, and had come here to 
decorate the apartments of the Grand Duchess. I listened, 
and was pleased to speak Italian once more, for the 
language brings with it, as it were, the atmosphere of 
the country. These worthy people have been absent from 
Italy three years, but, as they tell me, they intend to go 
straight home from hence, when they have finished paint- 
ing a scene for our theatre by order of Herr von Spiegel. 

2 d 2 



404 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



This, probably, you will deem a piece of good news. 
They are very clever fellows. One is pupil of the best 
scene painter in Milan ; and you may therefore expect a 
good scene." 

After Frederick had cleared the table, Goethe had a 
small plan of Rome laid before him. 

" Rome," said he, " would not do for the permanent abode 
of people like us. He who would settle there must marry 
and turn Catholic, else would he lead an insupportable 
existence. Hackert is not a little proud of having lived 
there so long a Protestant." 

G-oethe then showed me, on the plan, the most re- 
markable squares and buildings. " This," said he, "is 
the Farnese garden." 

"Was it not here," said I, "that you wrote the witch- 
scene in ' Faust ' ? " 

"]STo,"he replied, "in the Borghese garden." 

I now refreshed myself with more landscapes by Claude, 
and we said a great deal about this excellent master. 

" Could not now a young artist," said I, " model himself 
upon him ? " 

"He who had a similar mind," answered Goethe, 
"would certainly develop great excellence by forming 
himself on Claude Lorraine. But he whose soul nature 
had not endowed with similar gifts, would at most only 
borrow single peculiarities from this master, and use them 
as mere phrases." 

Sat., April 11. — 1 found the table laid out to-day in 
the long hall for several persons. Goethe and Frau von 
Goethe received me very kindly. The guests gradually 
arrived, viz., Madame Schopenhauer ; young Count 
Reinhard, of the French embassy ; his brother-in-law, 

Herr von D who was on his way to enter into the 

Russian Service against the Turks ; Fraulein Ulrica ; and, 
lastly, Hofrath Yogel. 

Goethe was in an especially cheerful mood, and enter- 
tained the company before dinner with some good Frank- 
fort jokes, especially relating to Rothschild and Bethmann, 
showing how one had spoiled the speculations of the other. 

Count Reinhard went to Court ; the rest of us sat down 
to dinner. Conversation became very animated. They 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



405 



talked about travelling and the bathing places ; and 
Madame Schopenhauer especially interested us about tho 
arrangement of her estate on the Rhine, near the Island of 
Nonnenwerth. 

At dessert, Count Reinhard reappeared, and was praised 
for the activity with which, during [his short absence, he 
had not only dined at Court, but had changed his dress 
twice. He brought the intelligence that the new Pope — 
a Castiglioni — was elected, and Goethe gave the company 
an account of the traditional ceremonies observed at the 
election. 

Count Reinhard, who had passed the winter at Paris, 
was able to give us a great deal of desirable information 
about celebrated statesmen, literati, and poets. We talked 
about Chateaubriand, Guizot, Salvandy, Beranger, 
Merimee, and others. 

After dinner, when all except myself had departed, 
Goethe took me into his work-room, and showed me two 
very interesting papers, with which I was highly pleased. 
These were two letters written in his youth, one in 1770, 
from Strasburg, to his friend, Dr. Horn, at Frankfort ; 
one in July, the other in December. In both spoke a 
young man who had a presentiment of great things which 
lay before him to do. In the last, traces of " Werther " 
were already visible ; the Sesenheim connection had been 
formed, and the happy youth seemed rocked in an ecstasy 
of the sweetest feelings, and to be lavishing away his days 
as if half in a dream. The handwriting of the letters was 
calm, clear, and elegant; it had already assumed the 
character it always afterwards preserved. I could not 
forbear reading again and again these charming letters, 
and left Goethe full of the happiest and most grateful 
feelings. 

Sun., April 12. — Goethe read me his answer to the King 
of Bavaria. He had represented himself as one who 
actually ascends the steps of the villa, and expresses his 
feelings by word of mouth in the King's immediate 
presence. 

" It must be difficult," said I, " to preserve exactly the 
proper tone and manner for such cases." 

" No one," said Goethe, " who, during his whole life, 



406 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



has had to do with persons of high rank as I have, will 
find it difficult. The only point is not to be perfectly 
natural, but always to keep within the line of a certain 
conventional propriety." 

Goethe then spoke of the compilation of his " Second 
Residence at Rome," which now occupied him. 

" From the letters," said he, " which I wrote at that 
period, I plainly see that we have certain advantages and 
disadvantages at every time of life, as compared with 
earlier or later periods. Thus, in my fortieth year, I was 
as clear and decided on some subjects as at present, and in 
many respects superior to my present self ; yet now, in 
my eightieth, I possess advantages which I should not 
like to exchange for those." 

" While you made that remark," said I, " the metamor- 
phosis of plants came before my eyes, and I can well 
understand that one would not return from the period of 
the flower to that of the green leaf, and from that of the 
fruit or seed to the flower-state." 

" The simile," said Groethe, " expresses my meaning 
perfectly." 

" Only imagine a perfectly indented leaf," he continued, 
laughing ; "do you think that it would go back from its 
state of free development to the dull confinement of the 
cotyledon ? And, indeed, it is an interesting fact that we 
have a plant which may serve as a symbol of the most 
advanced age, since, having passed the period of flower 
and fruit, it still thrives cheerfully without further founda- 
tion. 

" It is bad, however, that we are so hindered in life by 
false tendencies, and never know them to be false until 
we are already freed from, them." 

"But how," said I, " shall we know that a tendency is 
false ? " 

" A false tendency," replied Groethe, " is not productive ; 
or if it is, what it produces is of no worth. It is not so 
difficult to perceive this in others ; but with respect to 
oneself the case is different, and great freedom of mind is 
required. And even knowledge of the truth is not always 
of use ; we delay, doubt, cannot resolve — just as one finds 
it difficult to leave a beloved girl of whose infidelity one 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



407 



has long had repeated proofs. This I say, because I 
remember how many years were required before I could 
find out that my tendency to plastic art was a false one, 
and how many more, after I was sure of this fact, to 
separate myself entirely from it." 

" But," said I, " that tendency has been of such advan- 
tage to you, one can hardly call it false." 

"I gained insight by it," said Goethe, "and therefore I 
can make myself easy about it. That is the advantage 
we draw from every false tendency. He who with inade- 
quate talent devotes himself to music, will never, indeed, 
become a master, but may learn to know and to value a 
masterly production. With all my toil, I have not become 
an artist ; but, as I tried every department of art, I have 
learned to take cognizance of each stroke, and to distinguish 
merits from defects. This is no small gain ; and, indeed, 
false tendencies are rarely without gain. Thus the 
Crusades, for the liberation of the holy sepulchre, 
manifestly represented a false tendency ; but they did 
this good, they weakened the Turks, and prevented them 
from becoming masters of Europe." 

We talked on various subjects, and Goethe then spoke to 
me of a book on Peter the Great, by Segur, which had 
interested him, and given him. much light. 

" The situation of Petersburg," said he, " is quite un- 
pardonable, especially when we reflect that the ground rises 
in the neighbourhood, and that the Emperor could have had 
a city quite free from all this trouble arising from overflow 
of the stream, if he had but gone a little higher up, and 
had only had the haven in this low place. An old ship- 
master represented this to him, and prophesied that the 
people would be drowned every seventy years. There stood 
also an old tree, with various marks from times when the 
waters had risen to a great height. But all this was in 
vain ; the Emperor stood to his whim, and had the tree cut 
down, that it might not bear witness against him. 

" You will confess that such conduct is very strange in 
so great a man. Do you know how I explain it ? — Man 
cannot cast aside his youthful impressions ; and this 
principle goes so far, that even defects to which he is ac- 
customed in his early years, and in the midst of which he 



408 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



has passed his happiest time, remain afterwards so dear to 
him that he is dazzled by them, and* cannot perceive any 
fault. Thus would Peter the Great repeat Amsterdam, so 
dear to his youth, in a metropolis at the mouth of the 
Neva ; as the Dutch are always tempted to build new 
Amsterdams over and over again in their new posses- 
sions." 

Mori., April 13. — To-day, after Goethe had said many 
good things to me at dinner, I again refreshed myself at 
dessert with some of Claude's landscapes. 

"The collection," said Goethe, "bears the title Liber 
Veritatis ; it might as well be styled Liber Naturce et Art is, 
— for here we find nature and art in the highest state and 
fairest union." 

I asked Goethe about the origin of Claude Lorraine, and 
in what school he had formed himself. 

"His immediate master," said Goethe, "was Antonio 
Tasso, but Tasso was a pupil of Paul Brill, so that the 
school and maxims of the latter formed the real foundation 
of Claude, and came to their full blossom in him ; for what 
appeared too earnest and severe in those masters, is, in 
Claude Lorraine, developed to the most charming grace and 
loveliest freedom. There was no going beyond him. 

" However, it is difficult to say from whom so great a 
talent, living in so remarkable a time and situation, actually 
did learn. He looked about, and appropriated to himself 
everything which could afford nourishment to his designs. 
"No doubt Claude Lorraine was as much indebted to the 
Caracci school as to his immediate and nominal masters. 

" Thus, it is usual to say Giulio Homano was a pupil of 
Kaffaelle ; but we might, with as much propriety, say he 
was the pupil of his age. Only Guido Reni had a pupil, 
who received so entirely into himself the spirit, soul, and 
art of his master, that he almost was, and did almost 
exactly, the same as he. This was a peculiar case, which 
has scarcely been repeated. 

" The Caracci school, on the contrary, was of a liberating 
kind, so that each talent was developed by it in its natural 
direction, and masters proceeded from it all entirely dif- 
ferent one from another. The Caracci seemed born to be 
teachers of art ; they lived in a time when the best had 



1829.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 409 

already been clone on every side, and hence they could 
present their pupils with models in all departments. They 
were great artists, great teachers ; but I could not say they 
were truly gifted with the spirit (Geistreicli).* It is a some- 
what bold saying, but so it seems to me." 

After I had looked at a few more landscapes of Claude's, 
I opened an artist's lexicon, to see what is said of this 
great master. We found — " his chief merit was in his 
palette." 

We looked at one another, and laughed. 
" There, you see," said Goethe, " how much we learn, 
if we rely on books, and take in all we find written." 

Tues., April 14. — When I went in to-day, Goethe was at 
table with Hofrath Meyer, talking about Italy and art. He 
ordered a volume of Claude Lorraine to be laid before us, 
in which Meyer found the landscape of which the news- 
papers told us that Peel had given four thousand pounds 
for the original. One must admit that it is a beautiful 
picture, and that Mr. Peel has made no bad bargain. 

On the right side of the picture is a group of people 
sitting and standing. A shepherd is leaning over a girl, 
whom he seems to be instructing to play upon the pipe. 
In the middle is a lake, in the full light of the sun ; on the 
left are cattle grazing in the shade of a grove. The two 
groups balance one another admirably, and the light has a 
magical effect, in the artist's usual manner. There was 
then a discussion as to where the original had long been, 
and in whose possession Meyer had seen it when in Italy. 

Conversation then turned on the new property of the 
King of Bavaria at Rome. " I know the villa very well," 
said Meyer ; "I have often been there, and still think with 
pleasure of the situation. 

" The house is of moderate size. The King, no doubt, will 
adorn it, and make it agreeable according to his taste. In 
my time, the Duchess Amelia lived there, and Herder in 
the next house. Afterwards the Duke of Sussex and 
the Earl of Munster lived there. Strangers of high rank 

* " Geistreich " frequently means little more than clever or in- 
genious ; but it seems here to have a deeper signification, and the 
term " gifted with the spirit " has been borrowed from the American. 
— Trans. 



410 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



have always liked it, on account of the healthy situation 
and superb prospect." 

I asked Meyer how far it was from the Villa, di Malta to 
the Vatican. 

" From Trinita di Monte, which is near the villa, and 
where the artists lived," said Meyer, " it is a good half 
league. We went over the ground daily, and often more 
than once." 

" The road by the "bridge," said I, " seems somewhat 
circuitous ; I should think it would be a shorter way to 
cross the Tiber and go through the fields." 

" It is not so," said Meyer ; " but we had this notion, and 
often crossed the Tiber. I remember one occasion when 
we were returning on a fine moonlight night from the 
Vatican. Of our acquaintance, Bury, Hirt, and Lips were 
with us, and we were engaged in the customary dispute, — 
which is the greater, RafHaelle or Michael Angelo? So 
engaged, we entered the ferry. When we had reached the 
opposite shore, and the argument was still at its height, 
some wag — I think it was Bury — proposed we should 
remain upon the water till the strife was quite settled, and 
the parties agreed. The proposal was acceded to, and the 
boatman had to put off and row back. Now the dispute 
began to grow animated, and when we reached the shore we 
were always forced to put back, for the contest was not de- 
cided. Thus we went on, hour after hour, which suited 
nobody better than the boatman, who had an addition of 
bajocchi each time. He had with him, as an assistant, a 
boy of twelve years old, to whom our conduct at last 
appeared strange. 

" ' Father,' said he, ' what is the matter with these men 
that they will not land, but we must always keep going- 
back when we reach the shore ? ' 

'"I know not, my son,' replied the boatman; 'but I 
think they are mad.' 

" At last, in order not to row to and fro the whole night, 
we came to a forced agreement, and landed." 

We laughed at this pleasant anecdote of artistic madness. 
Hofrath Meyer was in the best humour ; he continued to 
tell us about Rome, and Goethe and I took pleasure in 
listening to him. 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



411 



" This dispute about Raffaelle and Michael Angelo," said' 
Meyer, " was the order of the day, and was introduced 
whenever a number of artists met together large enough to 
take the two sides. It generally began at an inn, where we 
drank cheap good wine. Pictures, and parts of pictures, 
were referred to, and when the opposition party would not 
concede this or that, an immediate inspection of the 
pictures was found requisite. We left the inn and hurried 
to the Sistine Chapel, the keys of which were in the hands 
of a shoemaker, who would always open the door for a few 
groschen. When we were before the pictures the work of 
demonstration began, and after the dispute had lasted long 
enough we returned to the inn, to make up our differences 
over a bottle of wine, and to settle all controversies. Thus 
we went on every day, and the shoemaker, by the Sistine 
Chapel, received many a fee of four groschen." 

Mention was then made of another shoemaker, who 
generally hammered his leather on an antique marble head. 
"It was the portrait of a Roman Emperor," said Meyer; 
" the antique work stood before the shoemaker's door, and 
we often saw him engaged in this laudable occupation as 
we passed by." 

Wed., April 15. — We talked of people who, without 
having any real talent, are excited to productiveness, and 
of others who write about things they do not understand. 

" What seduces young people," said Goethe, " is this — 
we live in a time in which so much culture is diffused, that 
it has communicated itself, as it were, to the atmosphere 
which a young man breathes. Poetical and philosophic 
thoughts live and move within him, he has sucked them in 
with his very breath, but he thinks they are his own pro- 
perty, and utters them as such. But after he has restored 
to the time what he has received from it, he remains poor. 
He is like a fountain which plays for a while with the water 
with which it is supplied, but which ceases to flow as soon 
as the liquid treasure is exhausted." 

Tues., Sept. 1. — I told Goethe of a person now travelling 
through Weimar, who had heard a lecture of Hegel's on 
the proof of the existence of a God. Goethe agreed with 
me, that the time for such lectures was gone by. 

" The period of doubt," said he, " is past ; men now 



412 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



doubt as little the existence of a God as their own, though 
the nature of the divinity, the immortality, the peculiarities 
of our own souls, and their connection with our bodies, are 
eternal problems, with respect to which our philosophers 
take us no farther. A French philosopher, of the most 
recent times, begins his chapter confidently thus : — 

" ' It is acknowledged that man consists of two parts, 
body and soul ; accordingly, we will begin with the body, 
and then speak of the soul.' 

" Eichte went a little farther, and extricated himself 
somewhat more cleverly from the dilemma, by saying — ' We 
shall treat of man regarded as a body, and of man regarded 
as a soul.' He felt too well that a so closely combined 
whole could not be separated. Kant has unquestionably 
done the best service, by drawing the limits beyond which 
human intellect is not able to penetrate, and leaving at rest 
the insoluble problems. What a deal have people philo- 
sophized about immortality — and how far have they got r 
I doubt not of our immortality, for nature cannot dispense 
with the enteleclieia. But we are not all, in like manner, 
immortal ; and he who would manifest himself in future 
as a great enteleclieia, must be one now. 

"While the Germans are tormenting themselves with the 
solution of philosophical problems, the English, with their 
great practical understanding, laugh at us, and win the 
world. Everybody knows their declamations against the 
slave-trade ; and while they have palmed upon us all sorts 
of humane maxims as the real foundation of their proceed- 
ings, it is at last discovered that their true motive is a 
practical object, which the English always notoriously 
require in order to act, and which should have been known 
before. In their extensive domains on the western coast of 
Africa they themselves use the blacks, and it is against 
their interest for them to be carried off. They have 
founded large colonies of negroes in America, which are 
very productive, and yearly return a large profit in blacks. 
Erom these they can supply the demand in North America, 
and since they thus carry on a highly profitable trade, an 
importation from without would be against their commercial 
interests ; so they preach with a practical view against the 
inhuman African slave-trade. Even at the Congress of 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



Vienna, the English envoy denounced it with great zeal, 
but the Portuguese envoy had the good sense to reply 
quietly, that he did not know they had come together to sit 
in judgment on the world, or to decide upon principles of 
morality. He well knew the object of England ; and he had 
also his own, which he knew how to plead for and obtain." 

Sim., Dec. 6. — To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the 
first scene of the second act of "Faust."* The effect was 
great, and gave me a high satisfaction. We are once more 
transported into Faust's study, where Mephistophiles finds 
all just as he had left it. He takes from the hook Faust's 
old study-gown, and a thousand moths and insects flutter 
out from it. By the directions of Mephistophiles as to 
where these are to settle down, the locality is brought very 
clearly before our eyes. He puts on the gown, while Faust 
lies behind a curtain in a state of paralysis, intending to 
play the doctor's part once more. He pulls the bell, which 
gives such an awful tone among the old solitary convent 
halls, that the doors spring open and the walls tremble. 
The servant rushes in, and finds in Faust's seat Mephis- 
tophiles, whom he does not recognize, but for whom he has 
respect. In answer to inquiries he gives news of' Wagner, 
who has now become a celebrated man, and is hoping for 
the return of his master. He is, we hear, at this moment 
deeply occupied in his laboratory, seeking to produce a 
Homunculus. The servant retires, and the bachelor 
enters, — the same whom we knew some years before as a 
shy young student, when Mephistophiles (in Faust's gown) 
made game of him. He is now become a man, and is so 
full of conceit that even Mephistophiles 1 can do nothing 
with him, but moves his chair further and further, and at 
last addresses the pit. 

Goethe read the scene quite to the end. I was pleased 
with his youthful productive strength, and with the close- 
ness of the whole. " As the conception," said Goethe, " is 
Bo old — for I have had it in my mind for fifty years — the 
materials have accumulated to such a degree, that the diffi- 
cult operation is to separate and reject. The invention of 
the whole second part is really as old as I say ; but it may 

* That is, the second act of the second part of " Faust," which 
was not published entire till after Goethe's death. — Trans. 



414 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



"be an advantage that I have not written it down till now, 
when my knowledge of the world is so much clearer. Iam 
like one who in his youth has a great deal of small silver 
and copper money, which in the course of his life he con- 
stantly changes for the better, so that at last the property 
of his youth stands before him in pieces of pure gold." 

We spoke about the character of the Bachelor. " Is he 
not meant," said I, "to represent a certain class of ideal 
philosphers ? " 

"No," said Goethe, " the arrogance which is peculiar to 
youth, and of which we had such striking examples after 
our war for freedom, is personified in him. Indeed, every 
one believes in his youth that the world really began with 
him, and that all merely exists for his sake. 

" Thus, in the East, there was actually a man who every 
morning collected his people about him, and would not go 
to work till he had commanded the sun to rise. But he 
was wise enough not to speak his command till the sun of 
its own accord was really on the point of appearing." 

Goethe remained a while absorbed in silent thought ; 
then he began as follows : — 

" When one is old one thinks of worldly matters other- 
wise than when one is young. Thus I cannot but think 
that the demons, to teaze and make sport with men, have 
placed among them single figures, which are so alluring 
that every one strives after them, and so great that nobody 
reaches them. Thus they set up Raffaelle, with whom 
thought and act were equally perfect ; some distinguished 
followers have approached him, but none have equalled 
him. Thus, too, they set up Mozart as something unattain- 
able in music ; and thus Shakspeare in poetry. I know 
what you can say against this thought ; but I only mean 
natural' character, the great innate qualities. Thus, too, 
Napoleon is unattainable. That the Russians were so 
moderate as not to go to Constantinople is indeed very 
great ; but we find a similar trait in Napoleon, for he had 
the moderation not to go to Rome." 

Much was associated with this copious theme ; I thought 
to myself in silence that the demons had intended some- 
thing of the kind with Goethe, inasmuch as he is a form too 
alluring not to be striven after, and too great to be reached. 



I82 9 .] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



415 



Wed., Dec. 16. — To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me 
the second scene of the second act of " Faust," where 
Mephistophiles visits Wagner, who is on the point of 
making a human being by chemical means. The work 
succeeds ; the Homunculus appears in the phial, as a shin- 
ing being, and is at once active. He repels Wagner's 
questions upon incomprehensible subjects ; reasoning is not 
his business ; he wishes to act, and begins with our hero, 
Faust, who, in his paralyzed condition, needs a higher aid. 
As a being to whom the present is perfectly clear and 
transparent, the Homunculus sees into the soul of the 
sleeping Faust, who, enraptured by a lovely dream, beholds 
Leda visited by swans, while she is bathing in a pleasant 
spot. The Homunculus, by describing this dream, brings 
a most charming picture before our eyes. Mephistophiles 
sees nothing of it, and the Homunculus taunts him with 
his northern nature. 

"Generally," said Goethe, "you will perceive that 
Mephistophiles appears to disadvantage beside the 
Homunculus, who is like him in clearness of: intellect, 
and so much superior to him in his tendency to the beau- 
tiful, and to a useful activity. He styles him cousin; 
for such spiritual beings as this Homunculus, not yet 
saddened and limited by a thorough assumption of 
humanity, were classed with the demons, and thus there is 
a sort of relationship between the two." 

" Certainly," said I, " Mephistophiles appears here in a 
subordinate situation ; yet I cannot help thinking that he 
has had a secret influence on the production of the Homun- 
culus. We have known him in this way before ; and, in- 
deed, in the ' Helena ' he always appears as a being secretly 
working. Thus he again elevates himself with regard to 
the whole, and in his lofty repose he can well afford to put 
up with a little in particulars." 

"Your feeling of the position is very correct," said 
Goethe ; " indeed, I have doubted whether I ought not to 
put some verses into the mouth of Mephistophiles as he 
goes to Wagner, and the Homunculus is still in a state of 
formation, so that his co-operation may be expressed and 
rendered plain to the reader." 

"It would do no harm," said I. "Yet this is inti- 



416 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829; 



mated by the words with which. Mephistophiles closes the 
scene — 

Am Ende hangen wir doch ab 
Von Creaturen die wir niachten.' " 
We are dependent after all, 
On creatures that we make. 

"True," said Goethe, "that would be almost enough 
for the attentive ; but I will think about some additional 
verses." 

" But," said I, " those concluding words are very great, 
and will not easily be penetrated to their full extent." 

"I think," said Goethe, "I have given them a bone to 
pick. A father who has six sons is a lost man, let him do 
what he may. Kings and ministers, too, who have raised 
many persons to high places, may have something to think 
about from their own experience." 

Faust's dream about Leda again came into my head, and 
I regarded this as a most important feature in the compo- 
sition. 

"It is wonderful to me," said I, "how the several parts 
of such a work bear upon, perfect, and sustain one another ! 
By this dream of Leda, ' Helena ' gains its proper founda- 
tion. There we have a constant allusion to swans and the 
child of a^swan ; but here we have the act itself, and when 
we come afterwards to ' Helena,* with the sensible impres- 
sion of such a situation, how much more clear and perfect 
does all appear ! " 

Goethe said I was right, and was pleased that I remarked 
this. 

" Thus you will see," said he, "that in these earlier acts 
the chords of the classic and romantic are constantly struck, 
so that, as on a rising ground, where both forms of poetry 
are brought out, and in some sort balance one another, we 
may ascend to ' Helena.' 

"The French," continued Goethe, "now begin to think 
justly of these matters. Both classic and romantic, say 
they, are equally good. The only point is to use these 
forms with judgment, and to be capable of excellence. 
You can be absurd in both, and then one is as worthless as 
the other. This, I think, is rational enough, and may con- 
tent us for a while." 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



417 



Sun., Dec. 20.— Dined with Goethe. We spoke of the 
Chancellor, and I asked whether he did not bring any news 
of Manzoni, on his return from Italy. 

" He wrote to me about him," said Goethe. " The Chan- 
cellor paid Manzoni a visit; he lives on his estate near 
Milan, and is, I am sorry to say, always indisposed." 

"It is singular," said I, "that we so frequently find 
persons of distinguished talents, especially poets, with weak 
constitutions." 

" The extraordinary performances of these men," said 
Goethe, "presuppose a very delicate organization, which 
makes them susceptible to unusual emotions, and capable 
of hearing celestial voices. Such an organization, in con- 
flict with the world and the elements, is easily disturbed 
and injured ; and he who does not, like Voltaire, combine 
with great sensibility an equally uncommon toughness, is 
easily exposed to perpetual indisposition. Schiller was 
always ill. When I first knew him, I thought he could 
not live a month ; but he, too, had a certain toughness ; he 
sustained himself many years, and would have done so 
longer, if he had lived in a way more favourable to 
health." 

We spoke of the theatre, and how far a certain per- 
formance had been successful. 

" I have seen Unzelmann in the part," said Goethe. " It 
was always a pleasure to see him, on account of the perfect: 
freedom of his mind, which he imparted to us; for it is 
with acting as with all other arts. What the artist does 
or has done excites in us the mood in which he himself was 
when he did it. A free mood in the artist makes us free ; 
a constrained one makes us uncomfortable. We usually 
find this freedom of the artist where he is fully equal to 
his subject. It is on this account we are so pleased with 
Dutch pictures ; the artists painted the life around them, 
of which they were perfect masters. If we are to feel this 
freedom of mind in an actor, he must, by study, imagina- 
tion, and natural disposition, be perfect master of his part, 
must have all bodily requisites at his command, and must 
be upheld by a certain youthful energy. But study is not 
enough without imagination, and study and imagination 
together are not enough without natural disposition. Women 

2e 



418 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



do the most through imagination and temperament : thence 
came the excellence of Madame Wolff." 

We pursued this subject further, talking of many of the 
chief actors of the Weimar stage, and mentioning their 
performance in several parts with due acknowledgment. 

In the mean while, " Faust " came once more into my 
head, and I talked of the manner in which the Homunculus 
could be rendered clear upon the stage. " If we do not see 
the little man himself," said I, "we must see the light in 
the bottle, and his important words must be uttered in a 
way that would surpass the capacity of a child." 

" Wagner," said Goethe, " must not let the bottle go out 
of his hands, and the voice must sound as if it issued from 
the bottle. It would be a part for a ventriloquist such as 
I have heard. A man of that kind would solve the difficulty 
to a certainty." 

We then talked of the Grand Carnival, and the possi- 
bility of representing it upon the stage. " It would be a 
little more than the market-place at Naples," said I. 

"It would require a very large theatre," said Goethe, 
"and is hardly to be imagined." 

"I hope to see it some day," was my answer. "I look 
forward with especial delight to the elephant, led by Pru- 
dence, and surmounted by Victory, with Hope and Fear in 
chains on each side. This is an allegory that could not 
easily be surpassed." 

" The elephant would not be the first on the stage," said 
Goethe. " At Paris there is one, which forms an entire 
character. He belongs to a popular party, and takes the 
crown from one king and places it on another, which must 
indeed have an imposing effect. Then, when he is called 
at the end of the piece, he appears quite alone, makes' his 
bow, and retires. You see, therefore, that we might reckon 
on an elephant for our carnival. But the whole scene is 
much too large, and requires a manager such as is not easily 
found." 

" Still, it is so brilliant and effective," said I, "that a 
stage will scarcely allow it to escape. Then how does it 
build itself up, and become more and more striking ! First, 
there are the beautiful gardeners, male and female, who 
decorate the stage, and at the same time form a mass, so that 



1829.] 



CONVERSATIONS OP GOETHE. 



419 



the various objects, as they increase in importance, are 
never without spectators and a background. Then there 
is the team of dragons, which coming from the background, 
through the air, soars overhead. Then the appearance of 
the great Pan with the apparent fire, and its extinction 
by the wet clouds, which roll to the spot. If all this is 
carried out as you have conceived, the public will, in its 
amazement, confess that it has not sense and intellect suffi- 
cient to appreciate such a profusion of phenomena." 

" Pray, no more about the public," said Goethe ; " I wish 
to hear nothing about it. The chief point is, that the piece 
is written ; the world may now do with it as it pleases, and 
use it as far as it can." 

"We then talked of the " Boy Lenker." 

" That Faust is concealed under the mask of Plutus, and 
Mephistophiles under that of Avarice, you will have already 
j)erceived. But who is the ' Boy Lenker ' ? " 

I hesitated, and could not answer. 

" It is Euphorion," said Goethe. 

"But how can he appear in the carnival here," asked I, 
" when he is not born till the third act ? " 

" Euphorion," replied Goethe, "is not a human, but an 
allegorical being. In him is personified poetry, which is 
bound to neither time, place, nor person. The same spirit 
who afterwards chooses to be Euphorion, appears here as 
the 1 Boy Lenker,' and is so far like a spectre, that he can 
be present everywhere, and at all times." 

Sun., Dec. 27. — To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the 
scene of the paper-money.* 

"You recollect," said he, "that at the imperial assembly 
the end of the song is that there is a want of money, and 
that Mephistophiles promises to provide some. This theme 
continues through the masquerade, when Mephistophiles 
contrives that the Emperor, while in the mask of the great 
Pan, shall sign a paper, which, being thus endowed with a 
money- value, is multiplied a thousand-fold and circulated. 
Now, in this scene the affair is discussed before the Emperor, 
who does not know what he has done. The treasurer hands 
over the bank-notes, and makes everything clear. The 

* In the second part of " Faust." 

2 e 2 



420 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[1829. 



Emperor is at first enraged, but afterwards, on a closer 
inspection of his profit, makes splendid presents of paper- 
money to those around him, and as he retires drops some 
thousand crowns, which the fat court-fool picks up, and 
then goes off at once to turn his paper into land." 

While Goethe read this noble scene, I was pleased witb 
the happy notion of deducing the paper-money from 
Mephistophiles, and thus in so striking a manner bringing 
in and immortalizing one of the main interests of the present 
day. 

Scarcely had the scene been read over and discussed, 
when Goethe's son came down and seated himself with us 
at the table. He told us of Cooper's last novel, which he 
had read, and which he now described admirably in his own 
^graphic manner. We made no allusion to the scene we 
had just read, but he began of his own accord to tell a 
great deal about Prussian treasury-bills, and to say that 
they were paid for above their value. While young Goethe 
went on talking in this way, I looked at the father with a 
smile, which he returned, and thus we gave each other 
to understand how very a^rojios was the subject of the 
scene. 

Wed., Dec. 30. — To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me 
the next scene. 

" Now they have got money at the imperial court," said 
he, " they want to be amused. The Emperor wishes to see 
Paris and Helen, and they are, through magical art, to 
appear in person. Since, however, Mephistophiles has 
nothing to do with Greek antiquity, and has no power over 
such personages, this task is assigned to .Faust, who 
succeeds in it perfectly. The scene showing the means 
which Faust must adopt to render the apparition possible 
is not quite complete yet, but I will read it to you next 
time. The actual appearance of Paris and Helen you shall 
hear to-day." 

I was happy in the anticipation of what was coming, and 
Goethe began to read. I saw the Emperor and his court 
pass through the ancient hall to witness the spectacle. 
The curtain rises, and the stage, representing a great 
temple, is before my eyes. Mephistophiles is .in the 
prompter's box, the astrologer is on one side of the 



.1830.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



421 



proscenium, and Faust, with the tripod, on the other. He 
utters the necessary formula, and Paris appears rising from 
the fumes of incense. While this handsome youth is 
moving about to ethereal music, a description of him is 
given. He sits down, and leans with his arm bent on his 
head, as we find him in ancient sculptures. He is the 
delight of the ladies, who express how they are charmed by 
the bloom of his youth, and is hated by the men, who are 
moved by jealousy and hatred, and depreciate him as much 
as they can. Paris goes to sleep, and Helen makes her 
appearance. She approaches the sleeper, imprints a kiss 
upon his lips, retires from him, and then turns round to 
gaze at him. While in the act of turning, she looks 
especially charming, and makes the same impression on the 
men which Paris made upon the women. The men are 
inspired to love and praise, the women to envy, hatred, and 
detraction. Faust himself is quite enraptured, and at the 
aspect of the beauty which he has called forth forgets 
time, place, and circumstance, so that Mephistophiles finds 
it necessary to remind him every moment that he is getting* 
out of his part. A mutual affection between Paris and 
Helen seems to increase, the youth clasps her to carry her 
away ; Faust is about to tear him from her, but, when he 
turns the key towards him, a violent explosion ensues, the 
apparitions melt into vapour, and Faust falls paralyzed to 
the ground. 



1830. 

Sun., Jan. 3. — Groethe showed me the English Annual, 
" The Keepsake," for 1830, with very fine engravings, and 
some extremely interesting letters from Lord Byron, which 
I read after dinner. He himself had taken up the latest 
French translation of his " Faust," by Gerard, which he 
turned over, and seemed occasionally to read. 

" Some singular thoughts pass through my head," said 
he, " on reflecting that this book is now read in a language 
over which Voltaire ruled fifty years ago. You cannot 
understand my thoughts upon this subject, and have no 



422 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l8 3 0. 



idea of the influence which Voltaire and his great con- 
temporaries had in my youth, and how they governed the 
whole civilized world. My biography does not clearly 
show what was the influence of these men in my youth, 
and what pains it cost me to defend myself against 
them, and to maintain my own ground in a true relation to 
nature." 

We talked further about Voltaire, and Goethe recited to 
me his poem " Les Systemes," from which I perceived 
how he must have studied and appropriated such things in 
early life. 

He praised Gerard's translation as very successful . 
although mostly in prose. 

" I do not like," he said, " to read my ' Faust,' any more 
in German, but in this French translation all seems again, 
fresh, new, and spirited." 

" ' Faust,' " continued he, " is, however, quite incom- 
mensurable, and all attempts to bring it nearer to the 
understanding are in vain. Also, it should be considered 
that the first part is the product of a somewhat dark state 
in the individual. However, this very darkness has a 
charm for men's minds, and they work upon it till they are 
tired, as upon all insoluble problems." 

Sun., Jan. 10. — This afternoon Goethe afforded me great 
pleasure by reading the scene in which Faust visits the 
Mothers. 

The novelty and unexpectedness of the subject, and 
Goethe's manner of reading the scene, struck me so forcibly, 
that I felt myself wholly transported into the situation of 
Faust when he shudders at the communication from 
Mephistophiles. 

Although 1 had heard and felt the whole, yet so much 
remained an enigma to me, that I felt myself compelled t<? 
ask Goethe for some explanation. But he, in his usual 
manner, wrapped himself up in mystery, as he looked on 
me with wide open eyes, and repeated the words — 
" ( Die Mutter ! Mutter ! 's klingt so wunderlich.' " 
The Mothers ! Mothers ! nay, it sounds so strange. 

"I can reveal to you no more," said he, " except that I 
found, in Plutarch, that in ancient Greece mention was 



1 830.] 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



423 



made of the Mothers as divinities. This is all that I owe 
to others, the rest is my own invention. Take the manu- 
script home with yon, study it carefully, and see what you 
can make of it." 

I was very happy while studying this remarkable scene 
once more in quiet, and took the following view of the 
peculiar character and influence, the abode and outward 
circumstances, of the Mothers : — 

Could we imagine that that huge sphere our earth had 
an empty space in its centre, so that one might go 
hundreds of miles in one direction, without coming in 
contact with anything corporeal, this would be the abode of 
those unknown goddesses to whom Faust descends. They 
live, as it were, beyond all place ; for nothing stands firm 
in their neighbourhood : they also live beyond all time ; for 
no heavenly body shines upon them which can rise or set, 
and mark the alternation of day and night. 

Thus, dwelling in eternal obscurity and loneliness, these 
Mothers are creative beings ; they are the creating and 
sustaining principle from which everything proceeds that 
has life and form on the surface of the earth. Whatever 
ceases to breathe returns to them as a spiritual nature, and 
they preserve it until a fit occasion arises to come into 
existence anew. All souls and forms of what has been, or 
will be, hover about like clouds in the vast space of their 
abode. So are the Mothers surrounded, and the magician 
must enter their dominion, if he would obtain power over 
the form of a being, and call back former existences to 
seeming life. 

The eternal metamorphosis of earthly existence, birth 
and growth, destruction and new formation, are thus the 
unceasing care of the Mothers ; and, as in everything which 
receives new life on earth, the female principle is most in 
operation, these creating divinities are rightly thought of 
as female, and the august title of Mothers may be given to 
them not without reason. 

All this is, indeed, no more than a poetic creation ; but 
the limited human mind cannot penetrate much further, 
and is contented to find something on which it can repose. 
Upon earth we see phenomena, and feel effects, of which 
we do not know whence they come and whither they go. 



424 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l8 3 0. 



We infer a spiritual origin — something divine, of which we 
have no notion, and for which we have no expression, and 
which we must draw down to ourselves, and anthropomor- 
phize, that we may in some degree embody and make 
comprehensible our dark forebodings. 

Thus have arisen all mythi, which from century to 
century have lived among nations, and, in like manner, 
this new one of Goethe's, which has at least the appearance 
of some natural truth, and may be reckoned among the 
best that was ever devised. 

(Sup.*) Mon., Jan. 18. — Goethe spoke of Lavater, and 
said a great deal in praise of his character. He also related 
to me traits of their early intimate friendship, and how in 
former times they had often slept in the same bed. "It is 
to be regretted," continued he, "that a weak mysticism sc 
soon set bounds to the flight of his genius." 

(Sup.*) Fri., Jan. 22. — We spoke about the History oJ 
Napoleon by Walter Scott. " It is true," said Goethe, 
" that the author may be reproached with great inaccuracl 
and equally great partiality, but even these two defects 
give to his work particular value in my eyes. The success 
of the book, in England, was great beyond all expectation 
and hence we see that Walter Scott, in this very hatred for 
Napoleon and the French, has been the true interpreter and 
representative of the English popular opinion and national 
feeling. His book will not be by any means a document 
for the history of France, but it will be one for the history 
of England. At all events, it is a voice which could not 
be wanting in this important historical process. 

"It is generally agreeable to me to hear the most con- 
trary opinions of Napoleon. I am now reading the work 
by Bignon, which appears to me to possess particular 
merit." 

Sun., Jan. 24. — " I have lately received a letter from a 
celebrated salt-miner at Stotternheim," said Goethe, "which 
opens in a remarkable manner, and which I must communi- 
cate to you. 

" ; I have had an experience,' he writes, ' which will not 
be lost upon me.' But what follows this introduction? 
Nothing less than a loss of at least a thousand dollars. 
The shaft, whence you go down twelve hundred feet to the 



1830.] 



CONVEESATKWS OF GOETHE. 



425 



rock-salt, through a soft soil and stone, lie has incautiously 
neglected to prop up at the sides. The soft soil has de- 
tached itself, and has so filled up the pit, that an extremely 
expensive operation is required to get it out again. He 
will, then, at a depth of twelve hundred feet, put in metal 
pipes, to be secure against the consequences of a similar 
mischance. He should have done this at once, and he cer- 
tainly would have done it, were there not in such people a 
degree of rashness of which we have no notion, and which 
is requisite for such enterprises. He is very easy about his 
misfortune, and writes, ' I have had an experience which 
will not be lost upon me.' This is quite the sort of man 
that one likes ; a man who, without complaining, is at once 
active again, and always on his feet. What say you to it ? 
Is it not good ? " 

" It reminds me of Sterne," I replied, " who complains 
that he had not used his sorrows like a reasonable man." 

"It is something similar," said Goethe. 

" I am also reminded of Behrisch," continued I, " when 
he tells you what experience is. I have lately been reading 
the chapter for renewed edification.* 

" ' Experience,' says he, ' is nothing else than that one 
experiences by experience what one would not willingly 
have experienced.' " 

" Yes," said Goethe, smiling, " such are the old jokes 
with which we so shamefully wasted our time." 

"Behrisch," said I, "seems to have been a man full of 
grace and elegance. How pleasant is the joke in the wine- 
cellar, where he tries to prevent the young man from visit- 
ing his mistress, and accomplishes this in the pleasantest 
manner, fastening on his sword — now this way, now that — 
till he makes everybody laugh, and causes the young man 
to forget the appointed time." 

"Yes," said Goethe, "that was pleasant; it would 
have been one of the most attractive scenes on the stage ; 
indeed, Behrisch was altogether a good character for the 
theatre." 

We then talked over all the oddities told of Behrisch in 
Goethe's "Life "; his grey clothes, where silk, satin, and 

* That is to say, in Goethe's Autobiography (Dichtung und Wahr- 
heit), Part II. Book vii. — Trans. 



426 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l8 3 0. 



wool made strong contrasts one with another, and his con- 
stant care always to dress -himself in a new grey. Then 
how he wrote poems, imitated the compositor, and extolled 
the dignity of the penman ; and how it was his favourite 
pastime to lie at the window, to observe the dress of the 
passers-by, and in his thoughts so to alter it that the people 
would have been highly ridiculous if so attired. 

" Then his ordinary joke with the postman ; how do you 
like it ? is not that droll ? " 

" I do not know it," said I ; " there is nothing about it 
in your memoirs." 

" Strange ! " said Goethe, " then I will tell it you. 
When we were lying together at the window, and Behrisch 
saw the letter-carrier coming up the street, and going from 
one house to another, he would take out a groschen, and 
lay it by him on the window-sill. 

" ' Do you see the letter-carrier ? ' said he, turning to me. 
' He is coming nearer and nearer, and he will be over here 
immediately, I can see : he has a letter for you ; and what 
a letter ! no ordinary affair, but a letter with a check in it ; 
with a check for — I will not say how much; see, he is 
coming in. No ! but he will come immediately. There he 
is again. Now ! Here ! here ! my friend, this is the place ! 
He goes by — how stupid ! 0, how stupid ! how can one be 
so stupid, and act so unjustifiably ! Unjustifiably in two 
respects ! Unjustifiably towards you, to whom he does not 
bring the check which he had in his hands; and quite 
unjustifiably towards himself to lose this groschen, which 
I had taken out for him, and which I now put up 
again. 5 Then, with the greatest dignity, he would put the 
groschen again into his pocket, and we had something 
to laugh at." 

I was amused with this anecdote, which was quite of a 
piece with the rest. I asked Goethe whether he had ever 
seen Behrisch in later days. 

" 1 saw him again," said Goethe, " soon after my arrival 
at Weimar, about the year 1776. when in company with 
the Duke I made a visit to Dessau, whither Behrisch had 
been invited as tutor of the Crown Prince. I found him 
the same as ever — as a polished courtier of the best 
humour." 



I8 3 0.j 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



' ; What did lie say," asked I, " about your becoming so 
famous in the interval ? " 

" ' Did I not tell you so,' were bis first words, * was it 
not right that you did not have your verses printed then, 
and that you waited till you had done something really 
good ? the things were indeed not so bad, otherwise I 
should not have written them out. I£ we had remained 
together, you should not have had even the others printed. 
I would have copied them out for you, and they would 
have gone off quite as well.' You see he was the same as 
ever. He was liked at Court. I always saw him at the 
Prince's table. I saw him for the last time in the year 
1801, when he had become old, but was still in the best 
humour. He occupied some very handsome apartments in 
the castle, one of which he completely filled with geraniums, 
which were then all the rage. Now, the botanists had made 
some distinctions and divisions among the geraniums, 
and had given a certain class the name of pelargoniums. 
This the old gentleman could not bear, and he abused the 
botanists sorely. ' The blockheads ! ' said he, ' I think 1 
have filled my room with geraniums, and now they come 
in and tell me they are pelargoniums. What have I to do 
with them if they are not geraniums, and what have I to 
do with pelargoniums ? ' Thus he would go on for the half 
hour together, and you will see that he quite kept up his 
old character." 

We then talked about the " Classical Walpurgis-night," * 
the beginning of which Goethe had lately read me. 

" The mythological figures which crowd upon me," said 
he, " are innumerable, but I restrain myself, and merely select 
those that produce the proper pictorial effect. Faust has 
now met Chiron, and I hope I shall be successful with the 
scene. If I work hard I shall have done the Walpurgis- 
night in a couple of months. Nothing more shall take me 
oft* 4 Faust,' for it will be odd enough if I live to finish it, 
and yet it is possible. The fifth act is as good as done, and 
the fourth will almost write itself." 

G-oethe then talked about his health, and congratulated 
himself about keeping so constantly well. " My good state 



* In the second part of " Faust." — Trans. 



428 



CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 



[l8 3 0. 



of preservation," said he, " I owe to Vogel — without him I 
should have gone off long ago. Yogel was born for a 
physician, and is one of the most decided geniuses I ever 
knew. However, we will not say how good he is, for fear 
he should be taken away from us." 

(Sup.*) Mon., Jan. 25. — I brought Goethe the indexes of 
Dumont's literary remains, which I had made as a pre- 
paration for their publication. Goethe read them with 
great attention, and appeared astonished at the mass of 
knowledge, interest, and ideas which he had reason to sup- 
pose existed in the author of such varied and copious 
manuscripts. 

" Dumont," said he, "must have possessed a mind of 
great extent. Amongst the subjects which he has treated 
there is not one which is not interesting and important in 
itself, and the choice of subjects always shows of what stuff 
a man is made. It is not desirable that the human intel- 
lect should possess such universality as to treat all subjects 
with equal talent and felicity ; but even if the author does 
not succeed equally with them all, the mere attempt and 
•desire to treat them give me a very high opinion of him. I 
consider it particularly remarkable and estimable that a 
practical, useful, and benevolent tendency prevails in all he 
does." 

I had also brought him the first chapter of the " Travels 
to Paris," which I would have read to him, but which he 
preferred to study alone. 

He then joked upon the difficulty of reading, and the 
presumption of many people, who, without any previous 
study and preparatory knowledge, would at once read every 
philosophical and scientific work, as if it were nothing but 
a romance. " The good people," continued he, " know not 
what time and trouble it costs to learn to read. I have been 
employed for eighteen years on it, and cannot say that I 
have reached the goal yet." 

(Sup.) Wed., Jan. 27. — I dined very happily with 
Goethe. He spoke with great commendation of Herr von 
Martius. " His discovery of the spiral tendency," said he, 
" is of the highest importance. If I had anything more 
to desire in him it would be that he should carry out his 
discovered primitive phenomenon (Urphanomenon) with 



183O.] CONVERSATIONS OF GOETHE. 429 

decided boldness, and have the courage to announce a fact 
as a law, without too much seeking its confirmation at a 
distance." 

He then showed me the transactions of the natural 
philosophi